John Higgins survived a spirited fight-back from Jamie Burnett to win 6-4 and set up a mouth-watering quarter-final clash with Neil Robertson at the Betway UK Championship.
Burnett came from 4-1 down to 4-4 in an exciting tartan derby in York before Higgins won the last two frames to boost his bid for a fourth UK crown. He’s also targeting his fourth ranking title of the year having won the Welsh Open, Australian Goldfields Open and International Championship.
But first – tomorrow afternoon – Higgins must get past in-form Robertson, who blitzed Stephen Maguire 6-1 earlier today.
Wizard of Wishaw Higgins looked to be in full control tonight when he won the first three frames with top breaks of 57, 52 and 71. The next two frames were shared then Hamilton’s Burnett won three in a row to square the match, with Higgins making several unforced errors.
Burnett had a chance in frame nine but made just 12 before missing a red to a corner pocket, and Higgins punished him with 102 to regain the lead. A decider looked likely when Burnett was among the balls in the tenth, but he missed a tricky red with the rest on 48, and Higgins stepped in with a brilliant 71 clearance, highlighted by a cracking pot on the penultimate red along a side cushion.
“It was a big scare,” said world number seven Higgins. “I thought it was going 5-5 and that would have been a toss of a coin. Jamie had a good chance at 4-4 but he missed a red, which he’ll be kicking himself about because at that point I was really struggling. If he’d gone 5-4 in front I’m sure he would have gone on and won the game. I’m lucky he missed a pretty easy red and I managed to get in and punish him.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow, the four-time World Champion added: “Neil’s probably been one of the best players for the past five or six years so he’s rightly regarded as favourite. I’ll obviously be underdog but I’ll enjoy it and hopefully give him a good game.
“I watched all of his game against Stephen Maguire and he was flawless. He played great so I’ll need to play at the top of my game to have a chance of winning.
“In any given season a few years ago after winning four matches you would be in the final but now it’s only the quarter-finals. Now I’ve got Neil up against me – it’s going to be incredibly difficult. I hope he’s burned himself out.”
Martin Gould is also through to the last eight thanks to a 6-3 win over Joe Swail, and he’ll meet David Grace tomorrow evening. Londoner Gould was runner-up at the Australian Goldfields Open earlier this season and is now through to the UK quarter-finals for the first time.
From 2-1 down he won four frames in a row with top breaks of 63, 131 and 51. Swail pulled one back before Gould sealed the result in frame nine with a run of 51.
“I was happy to be 2-2 at the interval then I wanted to go out and dominate the match and get into a flow,” said world number 24 Gould. “When I’m on a mission like that I’m hard to stop.
“I might be expected to beat David Grace next but I won’t take any match lightly. Everyone in the quarter-finals is there on merit and David has played well all week.”