Ronnie O'Sullivan and Neil Robertson meet in the Tour Championship final over the best-of-19 frames in Wales on Sunday with the result of the match also solving the remaining key Crucible conundrum with a £150,000 first prize heavily influencing the looming World Championship draw.
A record 38th ranking victory for O'Sullivan – who recovered from 9-6 behind to edge Barry Hawkins 10-9 in the last four on Saturday night – would end his longest run of appearances in successive finals without a win having lost at the Northern Ireland Open, Scottish Open, Welsh Open and the Players Championship so far this season.
Outside of his 18-8 victory over Kyren Wilson in the World Championship final last August, it would also mark his first ranking success in the UK since his 13-11 win over Robertson in the Tour Championship final two years ago.
Tour Championship
'Nice to be part of history' - Robertson proud of achievements in snooker
28/03/2021 AT 21:20
O'Sullivan is 18-9 clear of Robertson in their head-to-head duels, but the world number two is expecting a tough test against the 2010 world champion, who has already contributed six centuries in two matches at Celtic Manor.
"I'm sure Neil is going to show up and play," said O'Sullivan, who lost 10-3 to an inspired John Higgins in the Players Championship final last month. "He's Mr Consistency, the way he strikes the ball. There's not much that can go wrong.
"I'm going to have to find some kind of level to give him a game, but as long as I can make the scoreline respectable. I'll take six frames and see where we are.
If I get pummelled again like I did against Higgins that won't be no fun, but if I can set my stall out to get six frames then anything on top of that will be a bonus.

Ronnie O'Sullivan ranking finals 2020/21

  • Northern Ireland Open: Judd Trump (lost 9-7)
  • Scottish Open: Mark Selby (lost 9-3)
  • Welsh Open: Jordan Brown (lost 9-8)
  • Players Championship: John Higgins (lost 10-3)
For his opponent, the penultimate ranking event of the campaign represents the key issue of where Australia's leading player will begin on the starting grid for the 45th staging of the World Championship in Sheffield which breaks off on Saturday 17 April until Monday 3 May.
The UK champion is provisionally seeded fourth for the event, leaving him on course for a potential rematch with top seed O'Sullivan in the semi-finals at the Crucible, but that could all change following his 10-3 win over Mark Selby in the semi-finals.
A win for Robertson over O'Sullivan would see him leapfrog Selby into third place in the world rankings and hoist himself into the slightly less daunting bottom half of the draw with the possibility of a semi-final against world number one Judd Trump on the horizon.

'He's missed it!' - Watch the stunning conclusion to epic final

O'Sullivan's path to a potentially record-equalling seventh world title could see him face 2020 semi-finalist Anthony McGill in the last 16 and a duel with former UK winners Ding Junhui or Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals, but seedings rarely go to plan at the World Championship with battled-hardened qualifiers hardly daunted by the event.
2015 world champion Stuart Bingham and two-times finalist Ali Carter are just two examples of players to avoid for the top seeds if they can negotiate the qualifiers, which run between 5-14 April at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

Provisional Crucible first round draw

  • Ronnie O’Sullivan (1) v Qualifier
  • Anthony McGill (16) v Qualifier
  • Ding Junhui (9) v Qualifier
  • Stephen Maguire (8) v Qualifier
  • John Higgins (5) v Qualifier
  • Mark Williams (12) v Qualifier
  • Mark Allen (13) v Qualifier
  • Neil Robertson (4) v Qualifier
  • ————————————
  • Mark Selby (3) v Qualifier
  • Jack Lisowski (14) v Qualifier
  • Barry Hawkins (11) v Qualifier
  • Kyren Wilson (6) v Qualifier
  • Shaun Murphy (7) v Qualifier
  • Yan Bingtao (10) v Qualifier
  • David Gilbert (15) v Qualifier
  • Judd Trump (2) v Qualifier
Tour Championship
'Like he was playing on a pool table' – Ronnie lauds Robertson
28/03/2021 AT 21:17
Tour Championship
Robertson delivers masterclass to crush O'Sullivan to win Tour Championship
28/03/2021 AT 20:14