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Bonus And Title On The Line For Milkins

Robert Milkins will play the biggest match of his life on Sunday at the BetVictor Welsh Open, having beaten Tian Pengfei 6-2 in the semi-finals to keep alive his hopes of winning the title and a colossal £150,000 bonus.

Milkins is into his second ranking final and will be looking to double his tally of titles having captured the BetVictor Gibraltar Open last season. Victory against either Shaun Murphy or Pang Junxu tomorrow would not only give him the Ray Reardon Trophy and top prize of £80,000, but he would also finish top of the BetVictor Series ranking list which has run across eight events since last July. That would bring his total earnings for the week to a mammoth £230,000. The most he has previously earned in an entire season is £139,000.

If he loses the final, then Ali Carter will bank the £150,000. For the second consecutive season, the race to win the bonus has gone to the last day of the final event.

Milkins’ reversal of fortunes over the past year has been extraordinary given that he went to Gibraltar last March in danger of tour relegation. He ended that week with his first title, 27 years after turning pro, and has carried that impetus into the current campaign, reaching the semi-finals of the recent BetVictor German Masters and now going one step further. The 46-year-old from Gloucester is up to 12th on the one-year ranking list and could go as high as fourth with victory tomorrow.

China’s Tian beat the likes of Carter, John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan to reach his first ranking semi-final but couldn’t reproduce that form today. He suffered a cruel slice of misfortune in the opener as he led 67-0 when he potted frame-ball red, only for the cue ball to go in-off. Milkins got the better of a safety battle then made an excellent 61 clearance. A run of 109 doubled his lead before Tian made a 58 to pulled one back. Frame four came down to the last red, and Milkins knocked a cracking pot into a baulk corner and cleared for 3-1.

The fifth went Tian’s way before world number 27 Milkins made an 89 for 4-2. In frame seven, the Englishman led 43-10 when he fluked a red while playing safe, and he added the points needed to go three up with four to play. And Milkins needed just one chance to seal the result, making an 82 in frame eight.

“It’s massive tomorrow, the biggest game of my life,” said Milkins. “I don’t know how I’m going to cope. It would be enough just playing for the title, let alone everything that goes with it. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stand up. But I might rise to the occasion, sometimes when there is that much pressure on, you play well, other times you can’t do anything right.

“I made a good clearance today in the first frame and then went 2-0 ahead. I lost my way after that for a few frames but from 4-2 I played well to get over the line. I back myself against most players in the scrappy frames. And I made a few good breaks today, which I couldn’t do against Mark Allen yesterday.

“I didn’t sleep well last night so hopefully tonight I’ll get some food, chill out and have ten hours sleep to catch up.”

Tian said: “Robert played well and I lost one or two important frames. I tried to enjoy it but it was difficult. I can still take some confidence from this week.”