Marco Fu reached the semi-finals of the Betfred World Championship for the second time, beating Barry Hawkins 13-11.
Hawkins nearly pulled off one of the great Crucible fight-backs as he came from 9-1 down to within a frame at 12-11. But Hong Kong’s Fu, who appeared to be fading having passed up several clear chances to seal victory, somehow pulled out a brilliant clearance in the 24th frame to get over the line.
The 38-year-old goes through to his only Sheffield semi other than his 2006 battle against Peter Ebdon when he lost 17-16. Fu will now meet world number one Mark Selby over 33 frames over the next three days. Along with Ding Junhui who plays Alan McManus in the other semi, Fu is seeking to become the first Asian player to reach the final.
Hawkins, who was aiming to reach the last four at the Crucible for the fourth consecutive year, trailed 10-6 going into the final session but won the first three frames tonight with top breaks of 50, 75 and 85. He also led 41-14 in the next before world number 14 Fu stole it with a 50 clearance to lead 11-9 at the interval.
A run of 93 put Fu three up with four to play, but he somehow failed to win the 44-minute 22nd frame, missing a short range final brown to a baulk corner and then a straight blue to a top corner. Hawkins cleared from blue to black to snatch it and then made an 80 in the next to close to 12-11.
The match appeared to be heading for a decider when world number 11 Hawkins led 60-0 in the next, but when Fu was presented with a chance he seized it superbly by clearing the table with 74.
“The toughest place to defend a lead is at the Crucible, so 9-1 doesn’t seem that much of a margin,” said two-time ranking event winner Fu. “The crowd got behind him, and all of a sudden it’s 9-5 then 9-6.
“At 12-9 I was one or two shots away from winning the match, but I just couldn’t pot the last ball. Some of the shots I played were horrendous. I wasn’t only missing, I was choosing the wrong shots because the pressure makes you think silly. When I look back at the video I’m sure I’ll be disgusted, I almost threw it away.
“I was speaking to Willie Thorne and Terry Griffiths, they told me before the clearance that I hadn’t potted a ball in 40 minutes, so under pressure that has to be the best clearance of my life so far.
“It’s going to be another tough match tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to it, I’ve had some really good matches in the past with Mark, so hopefully this will be the same. I need to regroup, I need to get some sleep tonight, that’s the most important thing.”
Hawkins, who knocked out Ronnie O’Sullivan in the previous round, said: “After Marco missed chances to win the match, I thought if I could get going I fancied winning. The first session cost me, it was too much of a mountain to climb after that.
“It was a great clearance in the end from Marco, but it doesn’t make it any easier for me. Every time I win a big match here, I come out in the next session and play terrible. I was buzzing all night after beating Ronnie and I didn’t sleep, I couldn’t get myself up for it, I couldn’t focus.
“But I showed a lot of character to come back and I nearly pulled off an amazing come back.”