Neil Robertson and Liang Wenbo both enjoyed epic 6-5 wins on Friday to reach the semi-finals of the Betway UK Championship in York.
Australia’s Robertson beat John Higgins in a deciding frame while China’s Liang edged out Marco Fu. Both are now just two wins away from the famous trophy and £150,000 top prize.
World number three Robertson, chasing back-to-back titles having won the Champion of Champions last month, now faces Mark Selby or Matthew Selt tomorrow evening, while Liang is through to his first UK semi-final and meets Martin Gould or David Grace.
Higgins knocked in a break of 119 to win the opening frame before Robertson seized control, winning four in a row with runs of 106, 59, 71 and 56. Scotland’s Higgins responded with 69 and 134 to take the next two, before Robertson won a scrappy eighth to lead 5-3.
A high quality contest saw three-time UK Champion Higgins fight back again with 134 to win frame nine. Robertson had a match-winning chance in the next but missed a tricky plant on a red on 22 and his opponent made 66 to force the decider.
Left-hander Robertson edged 36-0 ahead then Higgins had a clear scoring chance but missed a red to a baulk corner. Robertson made 17, then Higgins had one final opportunity when he potted a long red, but his attempted green to a centre pocket hit the far jaw and that proved his last shot.
“The match was an emotional roller-coaster,” said 33-year-old Robertson. “I played really well to go 4-1 up and then John played like a champion to come back. He had chances in the last frame and I just had to be ready in case he missed. I was relieved to get over the line.
“I have won everything in the game so now I have to motivate myself to win things again and build my legacy.
Winging it…the butterfly briefly had the best seat in the house
“Mary Selby will be favourite tonight but Matt Selt is very determined and if he settles quickly he has a chance.”
Robertson also joked about an incident in the second frame when a butterfly landed on the table and was removed – at the second attempt – by referee Jan Verhaas. “I’m just glad it wasn’t a wasp because I hate them,” he said.
Liang, whose only ranking final came at the 2009 Shanghai Masters when he lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan, made a sensational start today by winning the first three frames with breaks of 106, 132 and 138. In the next frame he had a chance to join Higgins, Robertson and Shaun Murphy as the only players to make four consecutive centuries, but broke down on 49. Hong Kong’s Fu cleared with 64 to pull one back.
The next two frames were shared then world number 29 Liang made a 67 to go 5-2 ahead. He might have sealed victory in the next but missed on 45 and his opponent cleared with 79. Fu, runner-up in 2008, added the next two frames with top runs of 45 and 49 for 5-5.
Both players had chances in the decider but it was Liang who took control with breaks of 28 and 32, and he clinched the result when a safety error from Fu left the penultimate red over a baulk corner.
“I made a great start with three centuries, then he put me under a lot of pressure from 5-2,” said Liang. “When it got to 5-5 it was very tough. I thought I would lose but I just tried to stay calm and enjoy it. Marco and I are friends and it was a good game.”