Mark Williams put on a supreme performance to down familiar foe John Higgins 13-7 in their second round meeting at the Betfred World Championship.
The clash was a repeat of the 2018 world final, when three-time Crucible king Williams defeated four-time World Champion Higgins 18-16 in an epic contest.
Welshman Williams, who has described his current brand of snooker as “carefree”, has officially become the fastest player in the world during this event, moving to the top of the average shot times. Williams is now taking just 18.1 seconds per shot for the season.
He will face either Mark Selby or Mark Allen in the quarter-finals. If he were to win, then 46-year-old Williams would be the oldest Crucible semi-finalist since Ray Reardon achieved the feat in 1985, aged 52.
Defeat for Scotland’s Higgins extends his wait for a fifth world title. The Glaswegian last won at the Theatre of Dreams in 2011. However, he does end the season having notched up the 31st ranking title of his illustrious career, after victory at the Players Championship last month.
Williams came into this evening holding a 10-6 advantage following a morning session, which saw Higgins take the final three frames to keep his hopes alive.
Williams started fastest tonight, crafting a break of 76 to extend his advantage. Despite Higgins pulling back to 11-7, it was Williams who fired in runs of 85 and 77 to burst over the line and clinch a place in the quarter-finals.
Williams said: “I think I played really good solid stuff the whole way through. I can’t play much more solidly than that. My safety was good and some of my long balls were good. Some of the ones I went for were ridiculous. I loved every minute and I was enjoying it.
“If I get on a roll, I can win a few frames in half an hour. It can put a bit of pressure on their safety more than anything. If their safety isn’t any good, I’m going for it regardless of where the balls are.
“I probably played as well tonight as I did back in 2018. I’m just being honest though. Back in 2018, I thought I had a great chance of winning this and told people that before we even started. I don’t feel like that this year. If I felt like that I would tell you, whether or not you believe me, I don’t know.”
On the other table, 2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy established a commanding 6-2 lead over Masters champion Yan Bingtao.
The Magician fired in a tournament high break of 144 on his way to securing the lead. That puts him in line for the high break prize of £15,000. He eclipses the 143 made by Mark Davis in qualifying. To add insult to injury, Murphy defeated Davis in the opening round.
Murphy and Yan return tomorrow evening at 7pm to play their second session.