Defending champion Higgins, seeking his first title of the season, is into the last 16 in Kochi and now meets amateur James Cahill, who beat Elliot Slessor 4-2.
It looked like a comfortable match for Higgins when he took the first three frames against Iran’s Vafaei. But his opponent stormed back to take the next three with breaks of 106, 58 and 52. Four-time World Champion Higgins then showed his class with a 104 in the last frame.
“I’m very pleased to win. At 3-0 down Hossein let his arm go. He times the ball incredibly well, he’s a great player,” said Scotland’s Higgins. “He has missed a lot of tournaments for visa issues but he is still close to the top 32, which shows how good he is. He’s got a bright future.
“I was feeling the pressure in the decider because I want to go as far as I can here. I felt that if I missed Hossein would clear up no problem.”
Chris Wakelin, who reached the quarter-finals of this event four years ago, scored a 4-2 win over Shaun Murphy. Former World Champion Murphy admitted yesterday he needs wins to build confidence, but he now only has the Gibraltar Open to play in before he heads to the Crucible next month.
A break of 108 gave Murphy a 2-1 lead, but Wakelin hit back to take the last three frames with a top run of 63.
Graeme Dott ended Thepchaiya Un-Nooh’s winning streak by beating the Shoot Out champion 4-1. “It’s a good win because Thepchaiya has got so much talent, probably as much as Ronnie O’Sullivan,” said 2006 World Champion Dott. “Any win is good for me at the moment because I’ve had a bad season.”
Dott brought an assortment of Pot Noodles with him to India but they remain unopened in his suitcase. “The food is great here so I don’t need any of them,” he smiled. “It’s a lovely hotel.”
Part-time factor worker Luke Simmonds led Lyu Haotian 3-2 and had chances to win in frames six and seven, but couldn’t get over the line and China’s Lyu eventually cleared the colours in the decider for victory. Lyu now meets amateur Andy Hicks, a former Crucible semi-finalist, who beat Eden Sharav 4-2.
Stuart Bingham made a 123 in a 4-2 win over John Astley while Li Hang compiled runs of 109 and 116 in a 4-2 defeat of Joe Perry.
Oliver Lines reached the last 16 of a ranking event for the third time in his career by edging out Soheil Vahedi 4-3, while Luca Brecel knocked in breaks of 109, 101 and 96 in a 4-1 win over Andrew Higginson.