Despite facing an immediate rematch of last year's final against Ding Junhui in his opener, Mark Allen is fancied by Aaron Ashley to go all the way again at the UK Championship.
The York showpiece, the first of three Triple Crown events, gets underway on Saturday and Allen tops the seedings at the Barbican after his thrilling 10–7 win over Ding in last season's final.
The top 16 players in the world rankings received automatic qualification into the tournament, but the other 16 spots were filled by those fortunate to have come through a gruelling qualifying campaign.
Judd Trump, on the back of three ranking event wins this season at the English Open, the Wuhan Open and the Northern Ireland Open, is 4/1 favourite to claim just a second UK Championship title after his breakthrough victory in 2011.
However, Trump has landed in the trickier top half of the draw which also features Allen, Mark Selby, Mark Williams, Kyren Wilson and the in-form Barry Hawkins - while he could face good friend Jack Lisowski in round two.
The bottom half of the draw looks easier to navigate and third seed Ronnie O'Sullivan, who is 9/2 to land his eighth UK title, may fancy his chances.
That said, the Rocket has not won a ranking event title since securing his seventh World Championship title in May of last year and he has been inconsistent this season.
That means there is value to be had and Aaron Ashley has picked out two bigger-priced alternatives to the market leaders that could make their presence felt in York.
Allen came into last season's UK Championship on the back of a recent title triumph at the Northern Ireland Open and the Pistol again arrives at York's Barbican Centre in fine fettle.
The Antrim ace went on to pip Ding to his first UK title, having twice finished runner-up, and there is every hope that he can go on to defend his crown.
The season started poorly for Allen, who endured a series of early tournament exits amongst a rare quarter-final appearance in Wuhan.
However, things clicked for the 37-year-old at the Champion of Champions last time out with high-profile wins over Ali Carter, John Higgins and Judd Trump.
Given the way in which Trump has started the season, with three titles already, Allen's 10-3 win in the final must be particularly satisfying.
Allen made runs of 137, 75, 65, 63, 59 and 57 in a surprisingly one-sided final while he also racked up four more centuries across his other three tournament wins.
That shows Allen is back in peak form and he should be full of confidence ahead of his title defence.
Allen came from 6-1 down to beat Ding 10-7 in the final 12 months ago and, with that Champion of Champions demolition of Trump to spur him on, the Northern Irishman can oust the three-time UK champion to begin what should be a strong title defence.
Tom Ford is his potential last-16 opponent while the inconsistent Mark Williams and the out-of-form Kyren Wilson are potential quarter-final challengers.
On recent evidence, Allen should have the beating of all of that quartet and, while a rematch with Trump or a showdown with Selby could be on the horizon in the semi-final, the Pistol is playing too well to be ignored at double-figure odds.
Mark Allen each-way @ 10/1
Since finishing runner-up at the 2017 UK Championship, Shaun Murphy has had a tough time in York with his subsequent five visits featuring three first-round exits.
A slow start to this season may have many predicting another early elimination for the Magician, although there were some encouraging signs at the recent Champion of Champions.
Murphy eased past Gary Wilson 4-1 in the opening round, a win that was capped off by a high break of 107, and then he was far from disgraced in a 6-4 loss to Trump in the quarter-final.
Murphy had led that match-up 3-1 and he compiled six breaks of 50-plus, suggesting that it won't be long until he makes a return to form.
Last season the Magician made three finals, winning the Tour Championship and Players Championship, while he started this season in style with victory in the Championship League.
The 41-year-old is one of eleven players to have won a career Triple Crown and he is a big-tournament player that should be trusted to have put in the necessary preparation.
And with Trump, Selby, Hawkins, Allen, Williams and Wilson all housed away from him in the top half of the draw, he may be able to capitalise.
The seeds in Murphy's quarter of the draw are Carter, Zhang Anda and reigning world champion Luca Brecel, who makes little appeal having lost three of his last four matches.
The Magician, therefore, could be the man to beat in that quarter of the draw and with seven-time winner O'Sullivan, who may be lurking in the semi-final, showing signs of vulnerability, he looks a fascinating title contender.
However, he does face a potentially tricky opener against either Hossein Vafaei or Scott Donaldson.
Shaun Murphy each-way @ 14/1
This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.