Snooker: Higgins's lucky break ends O'Sullivan hopes

Click to follow
The Independent Online

John Higgins kept his hopes of a fourth Crucible crown alive last night as he brought Ronnie O'Sullivan, his arch-rival, down to earth with a bump.

World No 1 Higgins clinched a thrilling 13-10 victory and will now lock horns with two-time world champion Mark Williams in the semi-finals of this year's £1.1m tournament in Sheffield.

"I don't know how I got back to 8-8, to say I was delighted was an understatement," said Higgins. "I just decided to play positive and thankfully it worked out. It was a big, big match and at 8-5 down I thought I was on my way out of the tournament."

Locked at 8-8 ahead of the concluding session of the pair's best-of-25 quarter-final clash, Higgins – who has sparkled since returning from a six-month ban – dug deep to win the opening frame of the evening.

A break of 47 did the trick, before fellow triple world champion O'Sullivan levelled matters with a 116 break.

But Higgins once again demonstrated his strong character to pull two frames ahead thanks to breaks of 63 and 65. It got even better for the determined Scot as he pocketed a 73 break after the mid-session interval to pull within one frame of victory.

In the next frame Higgins missed a simple pot on the pink and O'Sullivan pounced to reduce his arrears with an excellent 94 break.

However, the 35-year-old Higgins made a break of 79 in the next frame to book his place in the next round.

Higgins admitted he had a big slice of luck in what proved to be the deciding frame, having missed a match-winning chance in the previous frame.

Attempting a safety shot, Higgins accidentally potted a red to a middle pocket and he made no mistake at the second time of asking to make sure of his place in the next round.

"I was really lucky to fluke that red and be able to win that next frame," confessed Higgins. "I was on a roll at 12-9 and I missed a simple pink to the middle. I was thinking I might have blown my chance."

O'Sullivan was frustrated with his performance and admitted he made too many "elementary" mistakes.

"I didn't beat myself up at all, but I couldn't do any more," reflected O'Sullivan. "But my game isn't up to the level I believe it needs to be to win matches. I'm still playing sub-standard out there, but at least I wasn't smashing myself to pieces."

Ding Junhui, this season's Masters champion, clinched his semi-final place with a battling 13-10 victory over Mark Selby. Ding, who lives and practises in Sheffield, led 10-6 ahead of the final session, but saw his four-frame lead whittled away by Selby as the Leicester-based professional potted breaks of 55, 66, 89 and 92 to level. But Ding, the world No 4, showed bags of character to win the next three frames to secure victory and earn himself a meeting with rising star Judd Trump in the next stage.

Earlier in the day, Trump converted a 11-5 overnight lead into a 13-5 victory against Graeme Dott, last season's Crucible runner-up.