John Higgins will compete in snooker’s biggest match for the second successive year after defeating Kyren Wilson 17-13 to reach the Betfred World Championship final.
Scotland’s Higgins has lifted silverware at the Crucible on four occasions, but fell just short of a fifth world crown last year. He had looked to be in position for the title when he led Mark Selby 10-4, but fell foul of a fightback and lost out 18-15.
This afternoon’s momentous victory for 42-year-old Higgins sees him become the first player over the age of 40 to reach the world final in consecutive years. He’s also the oldest Crucible finalist since Ray Reardon in 1982, who was aged 49.
In contrast, 26-year-old Wilson’s bid to become the youngest World Champion since Shaun Murphy in 2005 came to an end. However, he did have a landmark win against Mark Allen in the last eight to ensure his passage to the one-table semi-finals for the first time in his career.
Awaiting Higgins in tomorrow’s showpiece match will be either a repeat of the recent Welsh Open final which the Scot was victorious in 9-7 against Barry Hawkins, or a meeting with fellow member of the Class of 92 and two-time World Champion Mark Williams.
The pattern of the semi-final saw Wilson cling to the coat-tails of Higgins. The Warrior was within a frame of the Scot on eight occasions during the tie, but he trailed for the duration of the match.
They came into this afternoon’s concluding session with Higgins’ lead at 13-11 after they shared the frames yesterday evening.
Wilson got off to the perfect start today with a superb break of 90 and pulled within a frame at 13-12. From there 30-time ranking event winner Higgins stamped his authority on proceedings.
He claimed the 27th frame, before a stunning break of 136 saw him move within two of the finish line at 15-12. A contribution of 53 helped Wilson reduce the gap. However, Higgins ruthlessly stormed over the line with runs of 100 and 98 to seal victory.
Higgins said: “I’m so proud that 20 years after I won my first world title, I’m sitting here ready to compete in another final. It’s a fantastic feeling. It would be extra special to play Mark Williams, he’s won it twice before and would be going after a third one. I’ll be going for a fifth.
“Kyren put me under it, but he just couldn’t get level with me. He reminds me so much of Mark Selby when I played him in the final in 2007. They’re different players, but they have a certain aura about them. When Kyren comes to the table, you think he is going to pot everything, and he often does. Maybe his cue ball control isn’t as tight as some other players, but his long potting is phenomenal. He learns from every single match he plays, and I’m sure he’ll do big things here in the future.
“At the time, I felt last year was my best opportunity to win it again. I don’t know how the next game is going to transpire, I might be well behind and not have an opportunity. I just felt that because I was so far in front against Selby that it was a great chance. We’ll need to see how the first day of this final goes.”
Afterwards Wilson admitted that not finishing the opening session level with Higgins could have been a pivotal moment.
Wilson said: “I think in hindsight it is probably down to the very first session. Walking out into the one table setup, I’ll hold my hands up, it was so unique and different to the two tables. The pleasing thing for me is that I didn’t crumble and I really held myself together and battled on. I feel very comfortable out there now.
“I really wanted to get level and see how John would respond to that. When I got within one he just seemed to get stronger, so I wanted to see what would have happened if I did get level.”