THRILLER! | Shaun Murphy vs Robert Milkins HIGHLIGHTS | 2023 Duelbits Tour Championship

Higgins Floors Selby To Earn Rocket Clash

John Higgins continued his return to form by knocking world number one Mark Selby out of the Coral Players Championship, his 6-4 victory setting up a showpiece match with Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Higgins and O’Sullivan, two of snooker’s all-time greats, will meet in the quarter-finals on Friday at 1pm at the Preston Guild Hall (limited number of tickets still available, for details click here). It’s a repeat of their 2005 Grand Prix final at the same venue, when Higgins won 9-2 with four consecutive centuries.

It has been a patchy season for  Wizard of Wishaw Higgins, with surprise early exits from several tournaments. But in recent weeks he has shown glimpses of his best, with runs to the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open and the semi-finals of last week’s Indian Open. And today’s win over Selby keeps his momentum going.

After sharing the first two frames, Higgins went 3-1 up with breaks of 68 and 58. Selby responded with 67, 76 and 121 to take three in a row to lead 4-3. But the Englishman didn’t pot a ball in the last three frames as Higgins dominated them with top runs of 58 and 68.

“I’m delighted because I haven’t beaten Mark for a couple of years and I have lost some big games against him,” said 43-year-old Higgins. “At 3-1 in front I was bracing myself to go close with him because you always know he’s going to come back at you. At 4-3 I was still trying to stay positive. In India last week I felt I was starting to hit the ball a bit better so that gave me confidence.

“I have made a drastic change to my practice situation, I’m playing at a unit in Glasgow now with Stephen Maguire and Anthony McGill. Hopefully that will give me impetus for the rest of my career. Before that I was getting really down in the dumps in the house and not practising. You need to put the work in to do well in this game. Hopefully I can give myself a chance now looking ahead to Sheffield.”

Higgins needs to win the tournament in Preston to earn a spot in the new Coral Tour Championship in Llandudno later this month. He added: “That’s not on my mind because every game is tough here. If I had won the tournament in India it might have made it a bit easier. But I’m just trying to play my best in each game.”

Stuart Bingham beat David Gilbert 6-4 in a match which has vital implications in terms of Coral Tour Championship qualification. Bingham is now up to seventh on the one-year ranking list, with the top eight after the Gibraltar Open to make it to Llandudno, while Gilbert will need a deep run in Gibraltar to have a chance (for more on that race click here).

A run of 86 gave Gilbert the opening frame before English Open champion Bingham took three in a row with 60, 71 and 68. Gilbert stole the fifth frame on the black then added the next two to lead 4-3. But Basildon’s Bingham looked in control for the remainder of the contest and sealed it in frame ten with a break of 57.

“The race to get to Llandudno has been on my mind since Christmas,” said Bingham, who now plays Mark Allen on Thursday evening. “It was a big match for both of us and a good win for me. I messed up a chance to go 4-1 up, then he had the momentum at 4-3. I just tried to dig in and eventually got it done. I’ll need to improve in my next match.

“If I do qualify for Llandudno, the extra £20,000 (guaranteed to first round losers) will also help in terms of making sure of my Crucible place. The win today might have been worth something like £50,000. That will help me do the garden up – I need to put fake grass in because when my son kicks the football around he gets mud everywhere!”