John Higgins boosted his chances of a fifth Crucible crown as he came from 7-5 down to beat Neil Robertson 13-10 and reach the semi-finals of the Betfred World Championship.
Robertson had been favourite for the title since the early exit of Ronnie O’Sullivan, but the Australian was stopped in his tracks by one of snooker’s all-time toughest match-players. Higgins arrived in Sheffield short on confidence having failed to win a title this season, but has come alive at his favourite venue.
The disappointment of losing in the 2017 and 2018 finals still burns for the Scot and he is clearly determined to lay those ghosts to rest. Higgins is into a tenth Crucible semi-final and if he beats David Gilbert over 33 frames he will reach his eighth final. The 43-year-old from Wishaw lifted the trophy in 1998, 2007, 2009 and 2011.
Robertson has won three ranking titles this season for the first time in his career, and reached four ranking finals in a row before heading to the Crucible. But his hopes of becoming the first non-British player to win the world title twice are over for another year.
The contest turned at the end of the second session as world number five Higgins came from 7-5 down to lead 9-7. He took the first frame of the concluding session with a break of 81. Robertson rallied with runs of 50 and 114 to make it 10-9. His century was the 80th of the tournament, triggering a £25,000 donation from sponsor Betfred to charity Jessie May Children’s Hospice at Home.
Higgins came from 22-0 down to take the 20th frame, before Robertson dominated the next to trail 11-10. Both players had chances in the 22nd but Higgins took it with breaks of 27 and 32. And he sealed victory in style in the next with a 101.
“To get back to that one table set up now is unbelievable,” said Higgins, who lost to Mark Williams in last year’s final. “To see the guys like Gary Wilson (who faces Judd Trump) and David Gilbert get there for the first time, you can see the delight on their faces.
“If I was sat at home watching the tournament I’d be wanting David to win, he’s a nice guy. But I’ve got to play him and hopefully we have a good game. I hope he freezes a little bit. I played Kyren Wilson last year when it was his first time, it took him a little while getting used to it. I managed to get my nose in front any stay there, I’d love that to happen again.
“David has played far better than me this year so I’m under no illusions how tough a game it’s going to be. The way he has dispatched Mark Williams and Kyren pretty easily, I certainly don’t think I’m the favourite.”
Robertson said: “I’ll have a couple of months off now, it’s long overdue. I’ve been on a great run getting to the last four finals and the quarter-finals here so I think I’ve earned some time off. My wife said she couldn’t wait for me to lose or win so I can get home and get on dad duties!”