John Higgins is through to the Betfred Masters final after a 6-4 defeat of David Gilbert in Milton Keynes.
Scotland’s two-time Masters winner Higgins hasn’t appeared in the final since he won the title in 2006, when he defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-9 in an epic clash at the Wembley Conference Centre.
Higgins’ path to the title match this year has seen him beat Mark Allen 6-5, before defeating O’Sullivan 6-3 in a classic quarter-final and seeing off Gilbert this evening. He will now face Yan Bingtao over the best of 19 frames, with a £250,000 top prize and the Paul Hunter Trophy up for grabs.
Higgins, a four-time World Champion, last lifted Triple Crown silverware at the 2011 World Championship and his most recent individual title came at the 2018 Welsh Open.
For the second year in a row, Gilbert will have to settle for exiting at the semi-final stage. He reached the last four on his debut 12 months ago, where he was beaten by eventual winner Stuart Bingham.
This evening’s encounter got off to a high quality start, with Gilbert composing a break of 80 to claim the opener. Higgins replied with a century break of 107 to draw level at 1-1.
Gilbert regained the lead thanks to a break of 86 to lead 2-1, but Higgins responded to restore parity and head into the mid-session locked together at 2-2.
When they returned, breaks of 107 and 55 saw Higgins assume control and make it 4-2. However, Gilbert refused to wilt and claimed a hard fought seventh frame to claw back within one.
The Tamworth cueman then edged a dramatic eighth, after firing in a superb long range pink and depositing the black to make it 4-4.
Higgins edged one from the win after crafting a run of 56 in the following frame, before taking a tense 31-minute tenth to secure his place in the final.
“I’ve never enjoyed semi-finals. They are the worst games. You are so close to being in a big final. I’m over the moon to beat Dave,” said 45-year-old Higgins. “It would probably be one of my best ever wins, to win the Masters at this age. I will go in and enjoy it tomorrow and give it my best.
“Yan has a great all round game. He and Zhou Yuelong have the best all round games coming through from China. I think Yan believes he can win the event. He’s served his apprenticeship. He’s thinking he can win, I think I can win, so hopefully it will be a good match.
“I watched the UK Championship final between Judd and Neil. You are obviously a little bit jealous, because these guys are competing for the big events. To be honest I maybe wasn’t expecting to get to the final, but I went to the Championship League and played pretty well, it gave me a wee bit of extra confidence coming here. I’ll relish it tomorrow, I don’t know how many more big finals like this I’ll be in.”
Gilbert said: “I’ve got nothing but positives to take away. I didn’t know what would happen when I came here so I would have probably taken getting to the semi-finals. When you get here you want more. I am disappointed right now, I feel like I could have done a bit better.”
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