John Higgins edges semi as he bids to win first world title since 2011

John Higgins surveys the table, while Kyren Wilson watches on, as the two battle for a place in the World Snooker Championship final. Picture: PA
John Higgins surveys the table, while Kyren Wilson watches on, as the two battle for a place in the World Snooker Championship final. Picture: PA
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At 42 years of age, John Higgins is much closer to the end of his career than the start, so he fully intends to cherish every moment of his Betfred World Snooker Championship semi-final with Kyren Wilson.

And the Scot made a promising start to the best-of-33 marathon on Thursday afternoon to take an early 5-3 lead, with sessions two and three today before the match concludes tomorrow.

It’s an archetypal clash of youth versus experience as four-time world champion Higgins plays a ninth semi-final at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre – which goes from two tables in the arena to just one for the last-four matches – while Wilson has reached this stage for the first time.

The 26-year-old Englishman might have limited World Championship experience but his talent is unquestionable, as he proved by reaching the Masters final at London’s Alexandra Palace in January.

And he showed Higgins-esque grit to battle back from 4-1 down to just 4-3 behind, before the world No 5 pinched the final frame of the session to guarantee himself an overnight advantage.

The Wishaw cueman is targeting a first world title since 2011 but admits he has always entered semi-finals with a certain amount of trepidation.

“The semi-final is the hardest game to get through,” said Higgins. “Once you get through the semi-final, you’re in the showpiece and there’s nothing else you can do – you’ve just got to give it your all.

“But if you fall down at the semi-final stage, it’s the worst defeat you can have at any tournament, so hopefully I’m not falling down.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be back in the one-table set-up at the Crucible – it’s what you play snooker for. When you walk out there and see the one table, it’s incredible.

“I’m at the stage of my career now where I’m really enjoying it and that seems to be working for me.

“I’ve got every respect for Kyren. He’s a really professional young guy. When you see him around on tour, he just gets down to practice, he’s all business and he keeps improving every year.”

Higgins’ epic 13-12 quarter-final victory over Judd Trump only finished around 10.30pm on Wednesday evening, with the semi-final starting less than 15 hours later.

But the veteran showed no sign of tiredness as he raced out of the blocks – breaks of 57, 65 and 77 putting him into a 3-0 lead.

Wilson finally got his first frame in the one-table set-up at the Crucible on the board to narrow the deficit to 3-1 at the mid-session interval and looked set to make it 3-2 in the next. However, he broke down on 61 and Higgins produced a trademark clearance of 69 to steal – restoring his three-frame cushion.

To his credit, the world No 9 bounced back in style, a run of 52 handing him frame six before a majestic total clearance of 140 narrowed the gap to 4-3.

Perhaps due to the excitement of that big century, the Englishman had to leave the arena to tend to a nosebleed and then missed a simple red on 44 when he looked odds-on to level the match.

Instead, Higgins took advantage to pinch frame eight and take a 5-3 lead into this morning’s session.

l Watch the snooker World Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player
with Colin Murray and analysis from Ronnie O’Sullivan.