Mark Williams reached the semi-finals of the Betfred World Championship for the first time since 2011 by beating Ali Carter 13-8.
Welshman Williams has had his best season for 15 years, winning two ranking titles, and is now finishing the campaign in style on the biggest stage. He pulled away from Carter to win five of the last six frames and earn his sixth Crucible semi-final.
World number seven Williams, age 43, will face Barry Hawkins over 33 frames on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a place in the final. Champion in 2000 and 2003, Williams is aiming to become only the sixth player to lift the famous trophy in Sheffield more than twice.
Williams insists that he contemplated retirement at the end of last season, but he has found a new lease of life this term and is playing his best snooker since he won all three Triple Crown events during the 2002/03 campaign.
He led 9-7 going into the final session and took the first frame tonight with a break of 83. Carter, who knocked out Ronnie O’Sullivan in the previous round, made a 51 in the next but Williams crucially cleared the colours to go 11-7 ahead.
World number 15 Carter pulled one back with a 54 but could barely stem the tide as his opponent made a 113, his fourth century of the match and eighth of the tournament, to make it 12-8 at the interval. And Williams soon closed out victory by taking a scrappy 21st frame.
“It’s going to be special – I’m going to enjoy this semi-final more than any other because the tour’s getting stronger,” said Williams, who didn’t even qualify for the Crucible last year having dropped out of the top 16. “I’m getting older and I don’t know how many more years I’ll be getting to semi-finals.
“I’m playing the best stuff I’ve played in donkeys’ years. I’m playing with a lot of confidence, I’m relaxed, I’m throwing frames away and I couldn’t care less. I just get on with it and forget about it like I used to back in the good old days. I felt in control of myself all throughout the match. I never felt like I was going to lose.
“I haven’t played Barry Hawkins in a long time. He produces his best stuff here so it’s going to be a tough game, but I don’t really care who I play. I’m just over the moon to be in the semi-final. Sometimes you can get a bit nervous going out there but not me, I just cannot wait to get out there.
“I haven’t won it since 2003, and I honestly thought my days were up. But with the season I’ve had so far, why not?”
Carter, who was runner-up in Sheffield in 2008 and 2012, said: “Mark played really well, I just felt like I was hanging on in there. We all want to win this so bad. It’s so important and it’s an opportunity missed. It’s been a positive end to the season.
“I’ll take a lot of confidence from beating Ronnie O’Sullivan but I’m looking forward to having a couple of months off now and then regrouping for next season.
“If Mark continues to play like that then he’s got every chance. Everywhere you look there are great players. I’d like see a new champion.”