Not many snooker fans would have anticipated this being the final of this year’s Masters when the first cueball was struck a week ago.
An incredible of week of shock scorelines and unexpected drama has seen two players left standing who are both making their first appearance in a Masters final – Ali Carter and Stuart Bingham.
The winner will win a massive £250,000, the famous Paul Hunter Trophy and will join a long list of snooker greats to have won one of the biggest events in the snooker calendar.
Carter was invited to play following Ronnie O’Sullivan’s withdrawal from the event.
And the world number 17 has fully taken his chance beating three former Triple Crown winners in Mark Selby, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy to get to today’s showcase final which will be watched by millions of snooker fans across the world.
Carter, a winner of four world rankings events, has had an extremely difficult few years on the circuit off the table.
In 2014 he underwent life threatening treatment for lung cancer which meant he faced a long period out of the game.
He returned more than a year later to a standing ovation in the Champion of Champions ahead of his first match since getting the all-clear from cancer.
In 2016 he won the World Open and has since drifted in and out of the World’s top 16 on a regular basis.
After being placed 17th in the world after last month’s UK Championship, O’Sulivan’s surprise withdrawal meant Carter would get to play in the prestigious Triple Crown competition once again.
Now he is through to the final and will play his the biggest match since losing the 2012 World Championship final to O’Sullivan.
He said: “It is a massive match for me tomorrow. The experience that has gone before in my career can only help. I am working on new things. I am feeling strong and feeling positive.
“I am just trying to do the right things out there and not get frustrated or let my frustrations get the better of me.”
Meanwhile, Stuart Bingham is also preparing his biggest match in the sport since winning the World Championship almost five years ago.
Bingham, who beat Shaun Murphy to secure his biggest triumph at the Crucible in 2015, has defeated Mark Williams, Kyren Wilson and David Gilbert to reach today’s final.
For different reasons Bingham has also faced difficult times in recent years.
More than two years after his World Championship victory, Bingham was at his lowest point in the game when he was banned from the sport.
The Essex cueman was found to have made numerous bets on snooker matches totalling more than £35,000, including some of his own matches, which is against World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) rules.
He was banned for six months – three months suspended – meaning he missed The Masters of 2018.
Two years later he is on the verge of winning the competition and collecting his second Triple Crown trophy.
Bingham said last night: “Myself and Ali used to play in junior tournaments in the Essex county, now we are competing in a major final. It is a bit surreal.
“It would mean everything to win. Just being in the VIP lounge and seeing all of those names on the list of past winners and the history of the game. To be amongst them would be fantastic.”
The final starts at 1pm (UK time).