Barry Hawkins emerged from the most dramatic of final frame deciders, to see off a dogged Anthony Hamilton in the last four of the Coral Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.
Hamilton had the balls at his mercy with the scores locked at 5-5, but unbelievably fouled by accidentally feathering the white ball whilst on the shot. The Hawk pounced and went on to move to the verge of victory with a contribution of 59, before breaking down on a green to the top pocket. He eventually got back to the table and deposited a magnificent long range red to get over the line. He punched both the air and the table with delight.
Hawkins had led for the majority of the match but just couldn’t shake off a resilient Hamilton. At 2-1 he looked set to move further ahead courtesy of a free ball, but missed a simple pot to the top left which allowed Hamilton to level the scores at the mid-session.
When they returned Hawkins gained a 4-2 advantage, only to be pegged back by a magnificent 138 clearance by the 45-year-old Hamilton. Further contributions of 74 and 97 ensured a decider, but it would ultimately prove to be a heart-breaking one for the Sheriff.
Afterwards Hawkins was understandably relieved to have been handed the lifeline by his opponent and gain a spot in tomorrow’s final alongside Mark King.
“I battled really well. I tried to keep calm and I just can’t believe that happened in the last frame. I’d imagine it has never happened before, but I managed to hold myself together in the end,” said Hawkins. “You have to take those bits of luck when they come along. They don’t happen very often so I’m just delighted to still be here.”
Despite the crushing manner of his defeat Hamilton stayed in the arena for some time after the conclusion of the match speaking to fans and signing autographs. He remained upbeat after what was a thrilling encounter.
Hamilton said: “I haven’t touched the white for years. It only happens when I start to feel good on the shot. It took me by surprise and he made a good break.
“It’s a bit of a film moment. Touching the white will be in the papers. But I can’t really be disappointed with the way I played. Especially from 5-3 and 4-2 down. I’m proud of it and I enjoyed it as well.”