John Higgins survives to join Ronnie O’Sullivan and ‘Class of ‘92’ in semis

[28-04-2022 03:50 PM]

Ammon News - John Higgins survived a final-frame decider against Jack Lisowski to book his place in the World Snooker Championship semi-finals and seal a historic achievement for the fabled “Class of 92”. After earlier wins for Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams, Higgins’s 13-12 success marks the first time since 1999 that the trio – who all turned professional 30 years ago – have reached the last four at the Crucible.

Higgins will face O’Sullivan, who swiftly dispatched Stephen Maguire upon the resumption of their quarter-final, while Williams battled past Yan Bingtao to set up a last-four clash with the 2019 champion, Judd Trump.

“We’ve got three of us who all came through in 1992 and we’re into the semi-finals 30 years later,” said Williams, who at 47 is the oldest semi-finalist since Ray Reardon in 1985. “What other sport can do something like that? It doesn’t really happen.”

Higgins stood on the brink of defeat when Lisowski, who stunned the title favourite Neil Robertson in the previous round, retrieved an 11-9 deficit to take the lead for the first time since the first frame of the match.

But the 46-year-old drew on his decades of experience to respond with a century to force the decider, then seized on an early missed red by Lisowski to compile a match-winning break of 72.

“I really don’t know where those two frames came from at the end,” Higgins said. “I was struggling all day and I had not been taking my chances. You’ve just got to find a way to get over the winning line.”

Earlier, O’Sullivan insisted “I’m no superstar” after cruising into the last four for a record 13th time by wrapping up a comfortable 13-5 win against Maguire. The 46-year-old reeled off breaks of 71 and 126 in the first two frames of the morning session to surpass the record he had shared with Stephen Hendry for reaching the last four.

But, despite closing on emulating Hendry’s record of seven world titles, O’Sullivan is adamant that the Scot’s dominance of the sport in the 1990s still makes him the greatest. “Stephen is an all-time legend for me, the greatest player,” O’Sullivan told the BBC. “He was the Tiger Woods of snooker. Me, John [Higgins] and Mark [Williams] have all done well, but when he was flying he was a superstar.

“When there’s three of us, we’re not superstars. But when there’s one man dominating the sport like he did, like Tiger Woods, it’s a different level.”

It was another commanding win from O’Sullivan, who started the tournament by losing the first three frames of his first-round match to David Gilbert before storming back to beat the former semi-finalist and blow away Mark Allen in round two.

Williams became the second member of the “Class of 92” to progress as he summoned two spectacular breaks to end the dogged challenge of his Chinese opponent with a 13-11 win. Yan took the first two frames of the deciding session to establish a 10-8 lead but Williams hauled himself level before summoning frame-winning breaks of 66 and 78 respectively.

Williams said: “I can’t believe I’m still competing with the big boys and getting to semi-finals and winning a couple of tournaments – it’s unbelievable.”

Williams will play Trump in the semi-finals after the 2019 champion recovered from a dismal opening session of the day to reel off eight frames in succession and sink Stuart Bingham 13-8.

Bingham had turned a 5-3 deficit into an 8-5 lead, but his missed black in the next proved the trigger for a spectacular comeback by Trump, who took the last three frames of the afternoon session to set up his grandstand finish.

Trump also provided a moment of levity as he played a joke on the referee in the middle of his quarter-final. On course for a century, Trump lost position and found himself snookered behind the pink with no obvious way of potting the brown he needed. After taking some time to think, he had a word with referee Ben Williams, seemingly signalling something at the back of the auditorium causing a distraction.

Then, with Williams looking the other way, he flicked the pink away from the cue ball and pretended to continue with his break – much to the amusement of the Crucible audience. There were laughs all round at the Sheffield venue as Bingham and Williams saw the funny side.

It was a welcome moment of light relief for Trump, who had endured a torrid session up to that point, losing five in a row to allow Bingham to lead 8-5. But Trump finished on a high, winning the last three frames to go level at 8-8, before winning all five frames in the final session.


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