Masters debutant David Gilbert admitted he is living the dream, after booking his spot in the tournament’s last four with a comprehensive 6-2 win over Stephen Maguire.
The 38-year-old got off to a blistering start to the competition with an impressive 6-1 victory against world No.7 Mark Allen in round one, and continued where he left off to reach the semi-finals of a Triple Crown event for only the second time.
A tournament-high break of 144 in the opening frame set the tone for a dominant performance by the Derby-born potter, and he duly built a healthy early advantage with half-centuries in the next two.
And after closing the game out with 77 after Maguire had shown flashes of hope by taking frames four and seven, Gilbert insisted he was loving his stay at Alexandra Palace.
“I felt great again out there,” he said. “The 144 was a dream start and helped me feel really comfortable.
“After the interval I lost a bit of concentration and I was somewhat lucky to win the next couple of frames, but it was lovely to finish like I did.
“I felt great at 5-1 and was just itching for a chance. Stephen started to play well and he was flowing, but when he missed I said to myself I needed to make one last push and thankfully I managed to get over the line.
“Playing in front of such a big crowd helped me focus, which is the complete opposite of how it used to be for me. I know that if I can stay in control and believe in myself I can give anyone a game.”
Despite sitting comfortably in the top 16, the world No.11 has just one non-ranking title to his name and was beaten in two finals in 2019 - at the German Masters and at the English Open.
But Gilbert is confident those experiences - as well as reaching last year’s World Championship semi-finals - has helped make him a better player and he believes he is displaying the sort of form that could see him lift the Masters trophy on his first appearance at the competition.
He said: “I’ve had some big experiences and I feel I’m learning all the time. I’m starting to believe in myself a lot more now and feel comfortable in these sorts of surroundings.
“I never even dreamed of being at the Masters because I never thought it was possible. I’m living the dream at the minute and I’m really enjoying myself.
“I’m not bothered who I play next because as long as I continue with the same frame of mind and attitude I’ve got every chance.
“It’s still early days really because there are still two very tough games left, but I am delighted to be in the semi-finals and I’ll give it a good go, for sure.”
Watch the London Masters LIVE on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with analysis from Ronnie O'Sullivan, Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.