Snooker: Higgins prevails after early setback

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The Independent Online

John Higgins and Mark Williams last night ensured the quarter-finals of the UK Championship in York will be contested by the world's leading eight players. A tournament devoid of surprise results now looks set for an exciting climax.

Certainly Higgins has the qualifications for overall victory after his 9-5 triumph over the Yorkshireman Paul Hunter. The Scot's title defence was under threat when he trailed 3-1, but the fifth frame ultimately went to Higgins and he gradually stretched away to record an impressive success. "It was a very tough match," said Higgins, who now meets Stephen Lee. "I'll have to play a lot better against Stephen because he's playing with a lot of confidence."

Williams, beaten by Higgins in last year's final, was despairing of his form after his World Championship defeat by Joe Swail in April, but the Welshman is now back to something like his best. The world No 1 came through a battle to beat Alan McManus 9-7 for a match with Stephen Hendry. "I felt good today, with no nerves at all," Williams said. "I'm playing a lot better than I was, but then so is Stephen. We all have to be grateful that he's not dominant any more but he's still capable of winning tournaments."

Ken Doherty is another live contender for the £100,000 first prize and he recorded an emphatic 9-3 win over Dominic Dale to book a meeting with Matthew Stevens.