Four-time Crucible king John Higgins won a tough battle against Stuart Bingham 13-11 to set up a blockbuster quarter-final against Neil Robertson at the Betfred World Championship.
Robertson has been the player of the tournament so far but could face an almighty test against one of snooker’s all-time greats. After a poor season, barren of silverware, Higgins has the capacity to rise to the occasion in the Crucible cauldron.
The 43-year-old Scot was devastated to lose in the final in both 2017 and 2018, missing out a fifth world crown, and will use that as motivation for another title challenge.
Higgins was pushed all the way by 2015 champion Bingham and there were never more than two frames between them after Higgins recovered an early 4-1 deficit.
Going into tonight’s conclusion they were level at 8-8. World number five Higgins won the opening frame with a break of 97. He had a chance to clear from 60-0 down in the next but ran out of position on the yellow on 46, and Bingham got the better of a battle on the colours to restore parity.
A trademark Higgins clearance of 76, from 51-0 down, put him 10-9 ahead. Bingham looked set to level in frame 20 until he missed a red to a baulk corner on 67, and again Higgins punished him with a 50 clearance.
After the interval, world number 12 Bingham showed his fighting qualities as he took two fragmented frames to level at 11-11, before Higgins made a 43 in the next as he regained the lead. Early in frame 24, Bingham went for a risky plant on two reds, which missed its target. Higgins took advantage with a break of 63, and he later potted the penultimate red to secure a 15th Crucible quarter-final.
“It’s a great win,” said Wishaw’s Higgins. “Stuart’s a tough player, an unbelievable player, so I’m over the moon. I nicked a couple of frames from 9-9. When it went 11-9 the pressure went back on to me, I seized up a little bit and Stuart played well. I felt as if I wasn’t getting through the ball, I was bashing it. I managed to regroup and played two decent frames to win it.
“I put in some work with Anthony McGill and Stephen Maguire before coming here, so I was coming prepared better than I have been in the rest of the season.
“Neil’s the tournament favourite for a reason. He could be sitting here with five tournaments under his belt this season but for Ronnie O’Sullivan beating him in a couple of finals. He’s playing with a lot of confidence so he’s going to be tough to stop. I’ve just got to play my own game and see where it takes me.”
Bingham said: “I had my opportunities in the first four frames tonight and I probably could have won all of them. When you’re 50 points up and you leave John a chance he will punish you. At the moment it’s tough to take, but I enjoyed myself and it was a good battle.
“Overall I’ve had a very good season, winning a couple of tournaments, and I have to take the positives out of having a good match with John.”