John Higgins came from 4-2 down to level at 4-4 with Barry Hawkins in the first session of the ManBetX Welsh Open final in Cardiff.
An intriguing opening session leaves the contest perfectly set up for this evening’s conclusion with first to nine frames to take the title.
Higgins is aiming to become the first player to win this title five times, having lifted the trophy in 2000, 2010, 2011 and 2015. Victory would give him his second ranking title of the season and 30th of his career, which would be just two behind Ronnie O’Sullivan (32) and six behind Stephen Hendry (36). The 42-year-old Scot is playing in his 47th ranking final, one more than O’Sullivan and ten fewer than Hendry.
Hawkins is hoping to win the Welsh Open for the first time. The 38-year-old Londoner is playing in his sixth ranking final and hoping for his fourth title. If he takes the £70,000 top prize he will jump into the top 16 of the one year ranking list and earn a place at the Players Championship in Llandudno later this month.
The opening frame lasted 34 minutes and came down to a tactical battle on the colours. Higgins potted the blue but couldn’t get position on the pink, and Hawkins converted excellent pots on the pink and black to go 1-0 up. World number five Higgins responded superbly with a 138 total clearance to level.
Wishaw’s Higgins compiled a run of 68 in the third, but a missed red to a top corner proved costly as Hawkins hit back with breaks of 36 and 34 to pinch it. Again Higgins recovered with a superb 141, his tenth century of the tournament, to make it 2-2 at the interval.
World number eight Hawkins got the better of a scrappy fifth frame then fired a run of 130 to go 4-2 ahead. The seventh went Higgins’ way thanks to a break of 51, and he took control of the next with a 58. Hawkins had a chance to counter but missed a tricky red along the top cushion on 7, and his opponent added the points he needed to square the match.
They resume at 7pm.