Judd Trump fended off a late rally from John Higgins to win 6-5 and reach the final of the Zhiyuan World Open in China.
Trump was hauled back from 5-2 to 5-5 but got the better of a tense deciding frame. He will face Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in Sunday’s final, with first to ten frames to take the trophy and top prize of £150,000.
Bristol’s Trump is aiming for his sixth title within the past year, having won the Northern Ireland Open, the Masters, World Grand Prix, World Championship and International Championship. The 30-year-old will be competing in his 22nd ranking final and aiming for his 13th title.
Today’s match was a repeat of the Crucible final in May which Trump won 18-9, and again he came out on top, though he was pushed all the way by four-time World Champion Higgins.
A scrappy opening frame went Trump’s way, then Higgins took two in a row with top breaks of 50 and 52 to lead 2-1. Trump then took control, winning four frames in a row with a top break of 99 to lead 5-2.
Higgins made an 89 clearance in frame eight to reduce his deficit. The ninth came down to the colours, and a safety error from Trump on the yellow gave his opponent the chance to make it 5-4. Trump made 59 in the next before running out of position, and Higgins clawed his way back into it, eventually clearing from green to pink for 5-5.
Higgins potted the first red of the decider but missed a tricky black along the top cushion. Trump made 55 before playing safe, then Higgins had a chance to counter but made just 15 before missing the pink to a centre pocket. World number one Trump added the points he needed to book his final spot.
“It was very dramatic,” said Trump. “I thought I was going to lose. I was getting chances but messing them up because I was worried about John coming back at me. When you play him you’re always on edge, he puts extra pressure on you. In the end I did well to get over the line. I made a good break in the last frame and then he missed quite an easy pink. It’s nice to know he is human.
“I haven’t played great all week. In spells I have been ok, but nowhere near my best. I have had to dig in which is pleasing.
“Thepchaiya is the most exciting player in the game, he has even overtaken Ronnie O’Sullivan. A lot of other players think he’s the best to watch and I agree with that. He is free-flowing and gets on with the game. We need more people like that in snooker. He plays a bit like I did five or ten years ago, he hasn’t got a care in the world, he goes for his shots and if they go in then he’s unbeatable. It should be a good final for the fans, though hopefully I can win a bit more easily.”
Scotland’s Higgins said: “It wasn’t great in terms of standard but it still had the drama that we always seem to produce. This time he got me at the finish line. I felt good at 5-5 because I was timing the ball better. I’m disappointed to miss the pink. It would have been difficult to clear up but I could have got myself back into the frame. I threw a quick one in and hit it too hard. I was in two minds whether to hold the pink spot or screw back a bit, and in the end I played nothing.
“I have to take the positives this week because I only had a couple of days practice with my new cue and in the end to push Judd to 6-5 in the semis gives me some confidence for the rest of the season. Today was the worst I have played this week but at least I’m heading in the right direction.”