John Higgins came from 7-2 down to beat Judd Trump 10-9 in a sensational Bank Of Communication Shanghai Masters final – and made a 147.
A phenomenal match, a great advert for snooker, featured a maximum break from Higgins plus three more centuries and 12 other breaks over 50, as well as gripping drama which thrilled the Chinese fans until the last moment.
Higgins looked down and out in the first session despite his superb 147 (read more about that here), but made a typical fight-back in the evening and clinched victory with a trademark clearance in the deciding frame.
After dominating the sport for the second half of the 2010/11 season and winning his fourth World title, Higgins had a miserable 2011/12 campaign by his standards and failed to reach a ranking final. But the 37-year-old has come into the current campaign with fresh impetus and a new cue, and showed tonight that he is still the toughest match-player in the business.
Victory is worth £75,000 plus £12,000 for the maximum break and gives him his 25th ranking title and first in China since 1999. He is now just three behind Steve Davis’s tally of 28 ranking wins, though still well behind Stephen Hendry on 36.
The match had echoes of the 2011 World Championship final when Higgins came from 10-7 down overnight to beat Trump 18-15, as well as the 2006 Masters final when the Wizard of Wishaw edged out Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-9 with another tremendous last-gasp clearance.
UK Champion Trump looked virtually unstoppable in the early stages and may have run out a comfortable winner but for the break between sessions, which stopped his momentum. The 23-year-old Bristolian just missed out on his third ranking title – and second in China – and had to settle for the second prize of £30,000. He stays at No 2 in the world but has made a huge dent in Mark Selby’s lead, and both he and third-placed Higgins will be aiming to hunt down the No 1 spot.
Higgins got just the start he needed to the evening session as breaks of 89 and 74 saw him reduce his arrears to 7-4.
In frame 12 he built a 48-12 lead then thumped in a long red and added the points he needed to keep the fight-back going. And when Trump missed a plant on two reds early in the 13th, Higgins capitalised with a run of 76 to go into the mid-session interval just one frame behind. His momentum continued when they returned as a smooth 71 levelled the tie.
In a dramatic 15th frame, Higgins led 52-15 when he missed the third-last red along the top cushion. Trump cleared to the blue then played safe, and Higgins potted the blue but went in-off. Trump missed the blue, Higgins potted it but missed the pink, then Trump slotted in the pink to force a black-ball game. Higgins, perhaps the best ever ‘doubler’ of balls, bounced the black off a side cushion into a top corner to lead for the first time at 8-7.
Having lost six frames in a row, Trump showed his own resolve in the next with a brilliant run of 105 to restore parity. Higgins made 64 in the next before missing frame-ball red with the rest. Trump had a chance to clear up but rattled the black off the last red and found himself one down with two to play.
There was more excitement in the 18th frame, which came down to the colours. Higgins converted a cocked-hat double on the yellow, but missed the blue when he still needed the pink, which was close to a side cushion. Trump potted the blue to go four points ahead then played safe. Higgins’s attempted long pot on the pink missed its target and he went in-off, leaving Trump to pot a simple pink for 9-9.
Trump had the first chance in the decider and made 36 before narrowly failing to gain position on the black, which forced him to play safe. Higgins crashed in a do-or-die long red and made an inspired 61, including a nerveless slow-rolled final red to a baulk corner. That left Trump needing two snookers on the blue, and when he failed to escape from one himself he conceded.
“To beat Judd from 7-2 down is unbelievable, I can’t explain how it feels because I’m shell-shocked,” said Higgins. “In the first session he steam-rollered me, but I still felt confident that if I came back tonight and played my best I would have a small chance. To beat Judd when he was playing that well must be one of my best wins ever.
“I could have won 10-8 but I started feeling some pressure and played a bad shot from brown to blue, that was just nerves. In the last frame I decided to go for the long red full-blooded and luckily it went in. To clear up was a great feeling.
“It’s a big loss for Judd to take. He’ll have defeats like this in his career – we all do – and he’ll win a lot of titles. If you can come back stronger from them, that’s what defines the great champions. He’s a flair player in the mould of Alex Higgins, Jimmy White and Ronnie O’Sullivan and he’s great for the game.”
Trump was full of praise for his opponent, saying: “John’s the best I’ve ever played against. He played so well tonight and didn’t give me a look-in until it was 7-7. In the last frame I was a bit unlucky not to get on the black. He took on a risky red, potted it and did well to clear up.
“Going into tonight I knew John was a great battler. I’ve played him before and been well in front and he’s come back at me. The 147 showed what a class player he is but it only wins one frame and I won the next one so it didn’t have any impact.”
Monday September 17
5) Steve Davis 5-1 Zhu Yinghui
8) Marco Fu 4-5 Lu Haotian
2) Jamie Jones 5-2 Lu Ning
4) Robert Milkins 5-4 Zhou Yuelong
17) Mark Williams 5-1 Mark Davis
19) Matthew Stevens 2-5 Joe Perry
3) Ryan Day 5-0 Wang Yuchen
1) Mark King 5-3 Zhao Xintong
Tuesday September 18
9) Mark Selby 1-5 Jamie Cope
16) Stephen Maguire 5-3 Peter Ebdon
6) Fergal O’Brien 2-5 Chen Feilong
7) Jimmy Robertson 4-5 Jin Long
11) Ding Junhui 4-5 Mark King
12) Shaun Murphy 5-4 Dominic Dale
23) Mark Allen 5-2 Lu Haotian
15) Allister Carter 5-4 Rob Milkins
Wednesday September 19
21) Stephen Lee 5-3 Marcus Campbell
20) Neil Robertson 5-2 Chen Feilong
10) Stuart Bingham 5-4 Tom Ford
18) Ricky Walden 5-4 Steve Davis
13) John Higgins 5-2 Jamie Jones
24) Judd Trump 5-3 Barry Hawkins
22) Graeme Dott 5-2 Jin Long
14) Martin Gould 4-5 Ryan Day
Thursday September 20
Mark Williams 5-2 Ricky Walden
Jamie Cope 1-5 Stuart Bingham
Ali Carter 5-0 Stephen Maguire
Joe Perry 5-0 Neil Robertson
Mark King 3-5 Shaun Murphy
Mark Allen 2-5 Judd Trump
John Higgins 5-0 Ryan Day
Stephen Lee 1-5 Graeme Dott
Friday September 21
Ali Carter 3-5 John Higgins
Mark Williams 5-4 Joe Perry
Stuart Bingham 1-5 Shaun Murphy
Graeme Dott 4-5 Judd Trump
Saturday September 22
Judd Trump 6-4 Mark Williams
John Higgins 6-3 Shaun Murphy
Sunday September 23
John Higgins 10-9 Judd Trump
John Higgins 10-9 Judd Trump