John Higgins and Alfie Burden both enjoyed narrow 4-3 victories in Bucharest on Wednesday to reach the last eight of the European Masters.
Four-time World Champion Higgins admitted he was lucky to scrape through against Tom Ford, who missed two clear match-winning chances in the deciding frame.
Wishaw’s Higgins hasn’t reached a semi-final since the China Open in April but he’ll have the chance to do so when he meets Judd Trump or Andrew Higginson on Friday.
Leicester’s Ford came from 1-0 down to lead 2-1 with breaks of 61 and 72. Higgins got the better of a scrappy fourth frame and led 46-0 in the fifth, but Ford snatched it with a 79 clearance to lead 3-2.
World number five Higgins opened the next with seven reds and blacks, and though his chance of a 147 ended when he lost position on the black, he went on to make 71 which proved enough for 3-3.
Ford’s first opportunity in the decider ended on 20 when he missed a red to a top corner. Higgins built a 52-20 lead before running out of position and playing safe. Ford cracked in a long red but could only make 11 before rattling a tricky red in the jaws of a top corner. That was his last shot as Higgins added 17 for victory.
“I missed a couple of chances myself in the last frame and I felt he was going to clear up and I didn’t deserve to win,” said Higgins. “Tom made a couple of great clearances earlier on and it must have been a good game to watch. I was very lucky to get through in the end – you always need a bit of luck to win a tournament and maybe that was mine. It’s a great venue here and it will be a great atmosphere come the final weekend so I hope I’m still here.”
Burden came through a battle against Ricky Walden to reach only his second ranking event quarter-final since turning pro in 1994 – the other coming at the China Open six months ago. World number 65 Burden will now meet Mark Selby or Barry Hawkins.
Walden started well with a run of 73 to win the opening frame but then made several unforced errors in the next three as Londoner Burden went 3-1 up with a top break of 43. Walden made 49 and 69 in recovering to 3-3.
Early in the decider, Burden left a red over a corner pocket when playing safe but was fortunate to cover it with the blue. Walden’s swerve shot failed to pot the red, and Burden took full advantage with a match-winning break of 64.
“It was a scrappy match, I was a bit nervous early on and didn’t settle,” admitted 39-year-old Burden. “But I knocked in a lot of good pressure pots and made a good break in the last so I’m delighted. In the decider you always just want a chance, and one thing I’ve always backed myself on is that I’ve got a bit of bottle. I was lucky to leave the red over the hole and cover it with the blue, but then I took the chance well.”