When Mark Selby and Ding Junhui played out a classic World Championship semi-final encounter last April, they were regarded as two of the best players the snooker circuit has seen in recent years.
Selby went on to win that tournament but both players have struggled for form since the 2016-17 finale and they failed to turn their respective campaigns around after being dumped out of the Masters at the first hurdle.
Ding loses a three-frame lead
Ding has picked up one trophy this season, the World Open, but has since failed to make it past the third round in six consecutive competitions. However, he flew out of the blocks against Ryan Day with breaks of 111 and 58 opening up a 3-0 advantage.
Yet contributions of 79, 125 and 105 drew the Welshman level before a tactical success gave him the edge. Ding made 69 in frame eight but was still ousted by Day before a 100 formulation gave him a lifeline. Yet Day held his nerve to produce a 115 break to win the contest 6-4.
Williams and Allen set highest breaks
In contrast, Selby made a miserable start against Mark Williams. The veteran made a fantastic 135 to take the opening frame before following it up with a break of 79. However, the World champion won five of the next six frames with three breaks in the 70s along the way.
Yet Williams used all of his experience to dig out the final three frames and won the decider by a mere 20 points. It leaves Selby with just one event to his name where he has progressed past the quarter-finals and that was the International Championship which he won back in November.
Meanwhile, Mark Allen defeated Luca Brecel 6-3 with an excellent performance against the Belgian making his Masters debut. Allen tied William's highest break of 135 and subjected Brecel to four frames without scoring as the Northern Irishman made three more contributions over 50.