Six times already during his 26-year professional career Higgins has reached the World Championship final and he used every bit of that experience to build a 13-11 lead over last-four newcomer Kyren Wilson at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre last night.
Yesterday’s morning session demonstrated the 42-year-old Scot’s veteran instincts – he failed to make a 50 break in an eight-frame session at the Crucible for the first time since 2012 but somehow maintained his two-frame advantage at 9-7. And with heavy-scoring 26-year-old Englishman Wilson on a roll in the evening, Higgins calmly produced a break of 91 to take the final frame of the day and head into this afternoon’s climax with a small cushion.
There’s work still to be done for the world No 5 to secure his place in the showpiece for a seventh time but the way he held off his dogged young opponent bodes well for today’s showdown.
After a high-quality first session on Thursday, both men looked lethargic yesterday morning and what ensued was mostly scrappy, often turgid snooker.
The opening four frames of the morning were split to maintain the status quo but Wilson’s battling 65 just before the interval was the only half-century break made.
The intermission failed to improve the standard as the Englishman pinched a 13th frame in which both men missed chances, before Higgins did likewise in the next to restore his two-frame lead.
Wilson then made just the second half-century of the morning – a run of 74 – to close to 8-7 but missed the chance to draw level as the veteran Scot rallied to edge the final exchange of the second session and take a 9-7 lead into the evening.
The five-hour break appeared to do both players a world of good as they came out firing in the night session, although it was ultimately Higgins who ensured he will be in control at the start of today’s finale.
Wilson opened up with a majestic break of 124 to once again move within a single frame of his opponent but the world No 5 shot back in kind.
Runs of 56 and 75 made it 11-8 as the four-time world champion looked in position to really ram home his advantage, only for the plucky youngster to show his grit with a knock of 81 to stay in touch. After Higgins took frame 21, Wilson again demonstrated the heavy scoring that has seen many label him a future world champion – producing classy breaks of 106 and 93 to close to 12-11.
But, as he has done for many years, the Wishaw cueman stepped up when it mattered most to compile a gritty 91 and take a 13-11 lead into Saturday.
In a battle of the old guard in the other semi-final, 39-year-old Barry Hawkins leads 43-year-old Welshman Mark Williams 9-7 heading into the final two sessions today.
l Watch the snooker World Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with Colin Murray and analysis from Ronnie O’Sullivan.