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Gritty Higgins Reaches Quarters

John Higgins came from 4-2 down to beat Anthony McGill 6-4 at the Dafabet Masters and avoid a 13th first round exit at snooker’s biggest invitation event.

Now playing in the tournament for the 24th consecutive time, Higgins has a mixed record, having lifted the trophy twice but lost his opening tie 12 times. And he looked in danger of another early exit when he lost four frames in a row against fellow Glaswegian McGill.

But world number five Higgins weathered the storm and he goes through to a last eight clash with Ryan Day on Friday evening. Victory would put 42-year-old Higgins into the semi-finals for the first time since 2012.

Wishaw’s Higgins took the opening frame on the colours then made a break of 89 to lead 2-0. He had chances in the third frame but missed a tricky pink when leading 58-42 with one red left, allowing Masters debutant McGill to clear.

That gave McGill the momentum and he fired runs of 122, 61 and 76 to lead 4-2. Higgins won frame seven with a 67 then in the eighth he potted 11 reds and ten blacks as he chased a 147, only to miss the 11th black on 81.

A break of 65 saw four-time World Champion Higgins regain the lead at 5-4. McGill had first chance in frame ten and made 41 before failing on a tough red to a top corner. Higgins replied with 50 then ran out of position on the last red, but after a brief safety tussle he knocked in a long pot on the red and added the points he needed.

“I’m delighted because when I was 4-2 behind Anthony was dominating,” said Higgins, whose best moment so far this season came when he won the Indian Open in September. “I knew at that stage I needed to hit the ball with more authority because I wasn’t getting through the white at all.

“I was beginning to lose my rag at 3-2, I played a red to the middle and nearly miscued. I potted the red but nearly went in-off. I knew then that I just wasn’t hitting the ball well. Somehow I managed to turn it around.

“I fancied the 147 in the eighth frame because there were no nerves and the balls were all there. I think I got a kick on the black.”

Quarter-final line-up:

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Allen (Thursday 1pm)
John Higgins v Ryan Day (Friday 7pm)
Judd Trump v Shaun Murphy (Friday 1pm)
Kyren Wilson v Mark Williams(Thursday 7pm)