LIAM HIGHFIELD aims to put the icing on his birthday cake with a victory tonight at the York Barbican.

The potter from the Potteries has reached the last 16 of a major ranking tournament for only the second time in his snooker career and will put his 26th birthday celebrations on hold to play two times former world champion Mark Williams.

His path to the latter stages of the Betway UK Championship has been far from smooth with comebacks required in all his previous games against Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, China’s Wang Yuchen, and Leeds amateur Peter Lines.

“I am definitely getting better as the tournament progresses,” he told The Press. “I had to come back from 4-1 down to win 6-5 in my first two matches and I was a bit flat going into my last game.

“But I was really pleased how I played against Peter Lines. Tactically, he is a bit more patient of a player and, if he had dictated the frames, it could have been a long day – I would probably have come out second best.

“Going 2-0 down against Peter fired me up to play my natural game and not to think too much. I was building heavy breaks and that’s a good sign going into the next round.”

Highfield’s plays Williams in tonight's session with Luca Brecel playing Stephen Maguire on the adjacent table.

This afternoon's session features Jamie Jones against David Gilbert and John Higgins against Mark Allen.

By his own admission, Highfield found it a ‘struggle’ playing his first two games in the sports hall.

“It is nice to be in the main hall now. It was a bit of a struggle ‘out there’, wherever that is,” he laughed.

“I don’t practice as much between games when a tournament goes on. I am match fit now and looking forward to my next game.”

“You can’t predict anything. Everybody is a good player in this tournament. You just have to be consistent,” he said. “Mark is a great attacking player and it will be a tough match.”

Williams beat Ricky Walden in a last frame decider to reach the last 16, having knocked out Jason Weston and Andrew Higginson in the previous rounds.

“It doesn’t matter who I play,” said Williams. “I never play the player, I always play the balls. It could have been Liam Highfield or Ronnie O’Sullivan, it is irrelevant.”

It will, in fact, be O’Sullivan next for the winner of this evening’s match following the Rocket’s 6-2 demolition of Matthew Stevens yesterday afternoon.

Elsewhere yesterday, Shaun Murphy beat China’s Zhou Yuelong 6-2, with two tons and two 50s to win the last four frames.