A black-ball decider blasts the Rocket into the Tour Championship Final 🚀

Champ Higgins Floors Lisowski In Cardiff

Defending champion John Higgins made a trademark clearance in the deciding frame to beat Jack Lisowski 4-3 and reach the quarter-finals of the ManBetX Welsh Open.

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Higgins is through to the last eight of a ranking event for only the second time this season and first since September’s China Championship.

The 43-year-old will take confidence from the way he finished off the match tonight in Cardiff, as he kept his pursuit of a sixth Welsh Open title alive.

It was high quality snooker with three centuries within the first four frames, Higgins making a 103 while Lisowski knocked in 134 and 115 to leave the score at 2-2. Scotland’s Higgins got the better of frame five, then Gloucestershire’s Lisowski levelled at 3-3.

Lisowski had two clear chances in the decider, but missed the green to a baulk corner on 26, then a tricky red to a centre pocket on 14. From 40-1 down, Higgins cleared the table superbly with 71.

“It’s a relief to win because Jack had two great chances in the last frame,” said Higgins. “I don’t think he’ll be sleeping tonight, we’ve all had matches like that. He played better than me. I’m buzzing to win and he’s obviously heart-broken.

“It has been a poor season for me. Hopefully I can have a good run here. There are still a few big tournaments left this season. Arriving here this week I didn’t know where a win was coming from, and now I’m in the quarter-finals.”

Higgins will now face tour rookie Joe O’Connor, who scored the best result of his career so far with a 4-1 win over Ding Junhui. Leicester’s 23-year-old O’Connor scored a top break of 93.

“I played well, I took my chances,” said O’Connor, who also knocked out Kyren Wilson yesterday. “This has been my best tournament so far and I just want to enjoy it from now. It means the world because my dad and a few friends are here and it’s nice to see them proud.”

World number one Mark Selby lost 4-3 to Iran’s Hossein Vafaei, who is into the quarter-finals of a ranking event for the first time since the 2017 English Open.  Selby led 3-2 with a top break of 135, but Vafaei got the better of frame six, then came from 58-12 down in the decider to snatch it with a brilliant 54 clearance.

Stuart Bingham, who won this title two years ago, finished off a 4-2 win over Robbie Williams in sensational style. From 2-1 down, Bingham took the last three frames with breaks of 128, 103 and 124.

Neil Robertson took just 53 minutes to beat Michael Georgiou 4-0, knocking in runs of 79, 75 and 62. “When you play a second match in a day you never know who is going to recover the best,” said Australia’s Robertson.

“We had a laugh afterwards because Michael told me how knackered he was after the first couple of frames. Everyone today is just desperate to get to the quarter-finals, this is the trickiest day of the tournament. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow now.”

Alexander Ursenbacher knocked out Ronnie O’Sullivan earlier in the day but couldn’t keep his run going as he lost 4-2 to gifted Chinese potter Zhao Xintong, who fired runs of 104, 73, 56 and 86.

Scott Donaldson reached the semi-finals in Cardiff in 2017 and he needs just one more win to match that run. In the last 16 he saw off Ian Burns 4-2 with a top break of 110. Norway’s Kurt Maflin was another 4-2 winner, beating Elliot Slessor with a top run of 78.

Friday’s quarter-finals:

John Higgins v Joe O’Connor
Stuart Bingham v Zhao Xintong
Hossein Vafaei v Scott Donaldson
Neil Robertson v Kurt Maflin