Essex heroes Peter Barker and Daryl Selby powered into the semi-finals of the Canary Wharf Squash Classic.
They took contrasting routes to the last four of London’s most popular squash tournament, played before packed crowds at the spectacular East Wintergarden venue in Docklands.
Number 2 seed Barker, from Shenfield, won in straight games against Hong Kong’s Max Lee (11-4, 11-7, 11-8) while Selby battled for more than two hours to beat No.3 seed Borja Golan of Spain.
Barker, who has been runner-up at Canary Wharf in 2013 and 2011, now meets Germany’s Simon Rosner, who toppled former world No.1 James Willstrop to stop it becoming an all-English quartet in the semis.
Willstrop, a former world No.1, has been struggling to return to fitness following a hip operation.
Selby, from Chelmsford, looked he might need treatment himself after a physically bruising battle against Golan.
These two 32-year-olds frequently clashed as they battled for the ball in mid-court, and it all came down to a tense tiebreak after Selby had wasted two match balls at 10-8 in the fifth game.
Golan moved to match ball at 11-10 but Selby clung on desperately.
With the full-house crowd roaring him on, he battled through a succession of lets, blocks, tumbles and video reviews to win 11-8, 10-12, 11-7, 3-11, 14-12 in 125 minutes of high drama.
Referee John Massarella was called on to make 67 decisions during the match as squash’s gladiatorial appeal was illustrated to the full.
After five years of falling at the quarter-final hurdle, Selby was delighted to reach his first Canary Wharf semi-final, where he will face top seed Nick Matthew.
He said: “It probably wasn’t the prettiest game tonight. But that can add to the atmosphere in a weird, boxing style kind of way. I am delighted to make it through to the semi-finals for the first time.
“That wasn’t the longest match I’ve ever played, but it means a lot to achieve that kind of result here in this great venue, surrounded by family, friends and supporters.
“This is one of the best tournaments in the world and it’s extra special knowing that the semi-finals and final are being screened live by BT Sport.”
Selby has met Matthew several times in recent months. He was runner-up to the three-times world champion in the British Nationals in Manchester, and also came second best in matches in Chicago, the British Open, the British Grand Prix, and the Tournament of Champions staged in New York’s Grand Central Station.
Barker is another battle-hardened Essex veteran and he had too much experience for the super-fit Lee from Hong Kong.
Having seen off young Egyptian Mohamed Abouelghar in the first round, he was pleased to complete his second win in straight games.
Barker, 31, said: “Max was a little bit tired after a tough match in the first round but I am pleased with how I played in 90% of that game.
“This is my home tournament. I want to play well this week and show people who have supported me for years I don’t actually sit around all day doing nothing.
“It should be a great match with Simon. I have played him five times and won all five, including two wins here at Canary Wharf, but he has climbed to a career-best position of nine in the rankings so I would be dumb to take anything for granted.
“He showed how much he has improved in the way he beat James Willstrop last night and I know it will be a very difficult match. But it will be nice to have the home crowd on my side.
"Hopefully that might help to give me the edge.”