The World Surf League's return to Newcastle for the first time in nearly 30 years will feature an all-local quarter-final after Morgan Cibilic and Ryan Callinan progressed among a Brazilian wave on Friday.
Cibilic showed his ousting of top-ranked John John Florence was no fluke with another dominant heat victory on Friday, while fellow Novocastrian Callinan engineered an incredible mid-heat revival to knock out countryman Owen Wright at Merewether Beach.
The pair have been heartily supported all week at their home break and are now due to butt heads on Saturday, with a quarter-final call set to be made at 6.45am.
Wade Carmichael (10.33) was no match for the red-hot Cibilic (16.00), who scored 8.5 and 7.5 waves, while Wright (12.07) will wonder what more he could have done after two six-point waves were run down by Callinan (13.87).
Julian Wilson (7.10) was knocked out by Brazil's Adriano de Souza (8.40), whose risky tactics in tricky conditions paid off in a low-scoring heat.
De Souza is one of five Brazilians into the final eight that also includes American Conner Coffin and the two Australians.
Newcastle hasn't featured on the Championship Tour calendar since 1993 but this year was reinstated after the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of legs on the Gold Coast and Bells Beach.
"Every time you win it feels like you're winning the comp," Callinan said of the local support.
"It's getting down to the exciting end now and I'm just trying to keep it contained but the waves are super fun.
"He's (Wright) probably my favourite surfer ... everything I watch that he does is so impressive to me.
"I take it as a challenge and it's exciting to overcome someone that's kind of one of my heroes ... when he got the quick start it was about (thinking) 'just reset, wait for the one I want'."