Alan McManus produced one of the most remarkable displays in Betfred World Snooker Championship history as he rolled back the years to book his place in the semi-finals.
McManus has appeared in the last-four at Sheffield’s iconic Crucible Theatre on two previous occasions but the most recent of those was in 1993 – a full 23 years ago. However, he guaranteed a return to the one-table set-up by beating good friend and fellow Scot John Higgins 13-11.
The turnaround from just a few years ago for McManus is astounding after he failed to qualify for the Crucible between 2007 and 2012.
He earned his place back at the top table by downing four-time world champion Higgins, producing a gritty, nerveless display to get over the line.
The 45-year-old was a 300-1 outsider to lift the title before the World Championship began but is now just two victories away from realising that dream, with Chinese superstar Ding Junhui awaiting in the semi-finals.
McManus will be the oldest man to appear in the last-four at the Crucible since Ray Reardon in 1985 but if he reproduces the form he showed against Higgins there is no reason he couldn’t continue his fairytale into the final.
The pair split the eight frames played in the morning session to leave Higgins 9-7 ahead, although that lead was cut to one as McManus clinched an opening frame last night in which both men had chances.
Higgins had won frame 16 with a magnificent 101 break and recaptured some of that form with a fluent 53 to make it 10-8 although McManus again refused to lie down as a classy knock of 88 brought him within one. The 45-year-old had been expected to be outclassed by the four-time world champion over the course of a best-of-25 clash and although Higgins did make a 69 to lead 11-9 at the mid-session interval, things soon turned sour.
Traditionally, the 40-year-old has been the heavier scorer than his countryman yet McManus pulled off a string of incredibly impressive breaks to take control of the match.
A 71 break in the 21st frame was followed by a 74 to level proceedings at 11-11 but his best was saved for frame 23. Showing none of the nerves that you might expect with a World Championship quarter-final having been essentially reduced to a best-of-three contest, the veteran had the cueball on a piece of string as he compiled a majestic 128.
At 12-11 up, the Bearsden native went in-off early in the 24th frame but shook off that disappointment to have the first real opportunity to put a considerable contribution on the board. He did just that as a break of 60 put him in command and after Higgins failed to truly get a foothold, McManus wrapped up the 13-11 win to write one of the most remarkable snooker stories in recent times.
l Watch the World Championship live on Eurosport, with Colin Murray and analysis from Jimmy White and Ronnie O’Sullivan.