David Gilbert reached the second ranking event semi-final of his career by beating Marco Fu 5-3 at the Hong Rui Ma Yushan World Open.
Gilbert will now face Barry Hawkins, who saw off Gary Wilson 5-3, on Saturday with the winner to go through to Sunday’s final to compete for the £150,000 top prize.
Gilbert turned pro back in 2001 but it is only in recent years that he has exploited his undoubted talent. In 2015 he reached the International Championship final – also in China – losing to John Higgins, and he has since become a firm fixture among the world’s top 32.
Breaks of 56 and 122 today helped Gilbert build a 4-1 lead. The 37-year-old missed two clear chances to finish the match in the next two frames, as Hong Kong’s Fu recovered to 4-3 with a top run of 93. But Gilbert dominated frame eight with a top run of 48 to book his place in the last four.
“I know how well Marco played yesterday so I’m really pleased to win,” said world number 29 Gilbert. “I have been completely gone for the last six months, but I have just enjoyed playing this week and that has been the difference. I have come this far and would love to go a bit further.
“For the first half of my career I wasn’t really a snooker player, I was a farmer. There were only around six tournaments and I was just trying to nick a couple of quid by winning a few matches. In the last five years I have really tried my hardest.”
World number 29 Gilbert is already guaranteed £32,500 for his week’s work. “That would have been a year’s money driving the tractor for 14 or 16 hours a day and loving life!” he said. “I wish I was 21 now. Some of the young players don’t realise how lucky they are at times. The older ones do and you can tell that by how well the older generation is still doing.
“I used to hate coming to China. I wouldn’t leave my hotel room, I was frightened to death. But once you get over that it’s sound, you get well looked after and I really enjoy it. I can’t wait to get the cue out tomorrow.”
The result ends Fu’s hopes of regaining a place among the world’s top 16 and earning a spot in next month’s invitational Shanghai Masters. That’s good news for Anthony McGill who remains in 16th place on the projected rankings, though Gilbert and Jack Lisowski could still leapfrog him by winning this week’s tournament.
Hawkins reached the 22nd ranking event semi-final of his career and now hopes to reach his second consecutive ranking final in China having been runner-up to Mark Selby at the China Open in April.
Runs of 81, 52 and 54 helped world number seven Hawkins to a 4-1 lead. Wilson fired 97 and 66 in closing the gap to 4-3, but Londoner Hawkins finished in style with a 101.