Mark Selby came from 3-0 down to beat Mei Xiwen 5-3 and reach his third consecutive ranking event semi-final at the 19.com English Open.
David Gilbert also booked his spot in the last four at K2 Crawley with a 5-4 victory over Ricky Walden.
Selby hasn’t won a tournament since the 2018 China Championship, and hasn’t lifted a trophy on UK soil since the 2017 World Championship. But the three-time Crucible king looks to be returning to form, and having lost in the semi-finals of two ranking events already this season, he’ll be looking to go further this time. He faces Mark Allen or Lee Walker on Saturday.
China’s Mei was playing in his first ranking event quarter-final today and he looked comfortable in the early stages, firing breaks of 108, 48 and 56 to take the first three frames.
Selby’s top break at that stage was just 1, but he dominated the fourth frame to get a foothold, then stepped up a gear after the interval, winning four frames in a row with top runs of 69, 70 and 132.
“I started off poorly but I’m happy with how I turned the game around,” said world number five Selby after reaching his 44th ranking event semi-final. “The fourth frame was a big turning point. Once I won that I felt settled and I played better after the interval. From 3-1, that was about as good as I’ve played this week. I scored well and it was the most comfortable I’ve felt.
“It was important I finished it off, because even though I’d gone from 3-0 down to 4-3 up, if he nicks the next one suddenly it’s down to a decider. Thankfully it didn’t get to that stage. Over the years longer games have favoured me, but semi-finals are always tough and I’m going to have my work cut out to win.”
Gilbert boosted his hopes of winning a first ranking title by coming through a high quality battle against Walden.
Breaks of 85 and 63 put Tamworth’s Gilbert 2-0 up, then Walden reeled off three in a row with 91, 125 and 46. Gilbert hit back with 69 for 3-3, then the next two were shared to leave the match in the balance.
Walden had first chance in the decider, but after potting the first red he went for a tough pink to a centre pocket and missed his target. Gilbert punished him with a superb 75.
“I don’t blame Ricky for going for that pink, he had played positively all through the match,” said Gilbert, who was runner-up at the Yushan World Open and German Masters last season. “Luckily for me he missed it and I made a good break.
“People go on about me losing in two finals and the semis of the World Championship last season, but I’d take that kind of season for the next ten years. Of course I want to win events, but I’m not Ronnie O’Sullivan – I’m realistic. I’ll keep turning up with my cue with the right attitude and try to improve.”