Neil Robertson and Judd Trump were both sent crashing out of the Haikou World Open after dramatic 5-4 defeats to Marco Fu and Judd Trump respectively.
It appeared World No 1 Robertson would sneak the victory in his last-16 clash when he was left needing just the pink in the final frame, but the Australian missed the penultimate ball and Fu cleared to level at 49-49 before sealing the win on a re-spotted black
Robertson took his record century haul for a season to 92 with a run of 127 in the third frame of the match to claim an early lead, but Fu responded with an identical break and added 114 in the sixth to lead 4-2.
Robertson recovered to draw level but a poor safety at the death allowed his Hong Kong opponent to set up a quarter-final clash with surprise package Mark Joyce.
"I was lucky Neil missed the pink in the last frame and I was able to take the chance in the end,” Fu told World Snooker’s official website.
"I felt great among the balls but my safety and long potting were really bad. I have been consistent lately but if I want to win a tournament, consistent is not enough. I need to find more form in the latter stages of tournaments. Hopefully I can do that this week."
Walsall-based Joyce, who is ranked 43rd in the world, saw off London-born Norwegian Kurt Maflin 5-3 in their third-round contest.
Higgins produced a devastating five-frame streak of form to fight back from the brink of defeat to beat Trump.
The four-time world champion looked set to be on the next flight out of China when Trump sped to a 4-0 lead with breaks of 100, 63, 110 and 68, but Higgins returned from the mid-match interval rejuvenated.
He almost made a 147 maximum break in the first frame after the resumption, stalling after 13 reds and blacks, before runs of 89, 90, 124 and 63 gave him a stunning 5-4 victory.
Trump had led 38-0 in the deciding frame, but the 24-year-old Bristolian could not make the most of his opportunity as Higgins went forward to a quarter-final meeting with two-time defending champion Mark Allen, who ousted Ricky Walden 5-2.
Meanwhile, Mark Selby will face Alan McManus in another quarter-final after both men sailed through the last 16.
World No 2 Selby made breaks of 135 and 131 in the final two frames of a 5-1 victory over Liang Wenbo as the tournament on China's Hainan Island lost one of its home players.
Shaun Murphy finished off all hopes of a Chinese champion by ousting Ding Junhui, already a winner of four tournaments this season, in another deciding-frame thriller.
Ding needed three snookers with one red on the table and battled gamely for them, but Murphy had sufficient nous to complete the job.
Glaswegian veteran McManus beat Welshman Dominic Dale by the same scoreline, a victory highlighted by his 101 break in the second frame.