Mark Williams produced an imperious performance to defeat Hossein Vafaei 6-1 and reach the final of the Bank of Beijing China Open.
Williams, who needs to win this event to qualify directly for the World Championship, is now one match away from pipping fellow Welshman Ryan Day to a seeded Crucible spot.
The victory sees the 42-year-old from Ebbw Vale reach his 30th ranking final, where he will be looking to secure a fourth China Open crown. However, you need to go back to the 2011 German Masters for the last time Williams lifted a title.
Defeat for Vafaei, who secured the biggest win of his career yesterday against Judd Trump, brings an end to the most successful tournament of his career so far. However, he will go into next week’s World Championship qualifying with the knowledge that his run this week has secured his place on the tour next season.
The 18-time ranking winner Williams stamped his authority on the match early on. With the score at 2-0 he trailed in the third, but produced a clearance of 62 to extend his lead in a bitter blow for the Iranian. Williams compounded that in the next, with a contribution of 103 to lead 4-0 at the interval.
The deficit was soon five, but Vafaei showed a glimpse of his impressive form from earlier in the week, with a well constructed break of 98 to move to 5-1 down. However, the two-time World Champion wasn’t going to let his opponent back in and got over the line with a run of 69 in the seventh frame to wrap up a comprehensive 6-1 victory.
“I’ve been practicing quite a bit lately. I know about the incentive that if I win the tournament, I qualify for the Crucible, but I haven’t won in a while,” said Williams. “At the start of the week it was five or six games to qualify for the Crucible and looked out of my reach. Now it’s only one match, it’s within my grasp now really.
“I’m not anxious or nervous, I’m just excited. I’ve won this tournament a few times before and this is one of my favourite places to come and play.”