Snooker: John Higgins remains on course for tilt at fifth Crucible crown
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 01/05/17 2:49pm
John Higgins says winning a fifth world title would be his greatest snooker feat as he closes in on another Crucible final.
The Scot went from 5-3 ahead of Barry Hawkins to build a 10-6 overnight lead in their best-of-33-frame semi-final at the Betfred World Championship.
He has landed world titles in 1998, 2007, 2009 and 2011 but feared his days as a contender for the biggest prizes in snooker were over.
"I'm going to be turning 42 in May so it would be my best ever achievement," Higgins said of the prospect of winning again.
The tussle with Hawkins could still contain plot twists, and Higgins came to Sheffield with a hunch the 38-year-old Kent cueman would scoop the title.
This is a fourth Crucible semi-final in five years for Hawkins.
Higgins said: "In the last two or three years he's grown into being a great champion. He always had the game but I don't think he had the belief.
"He's definitely got the belief now. I was saying before this event he was my pick to win it."
There was a moment of controversy in the ninth frame of their clash when Hawkins twice fouled when attempting a precise safety escape before sinking a tough red with his next shot.
Higgins looked aggrieved, possibly thinking the white had not been replaced in the correct position.
Referee Paul Collier defended himself, saying he had used video technology correctly, and Hawkins later wrote on Twitter: "Don't worry Paul. I could always see enough to pot that red!! Thought it was too risky to take on until I was forced into it!!"
Higgins believes he will be facing one of the greats if he and Mark Selby are the players going head to head for silverware glory on Sunday and Monday.
Defending champion Selby was pegged back to 12-12 on Friday night by China's Ding Junhui in a gripping last-four clash between the players who contested last year's final.
There is no denying Higgins' place among snooker's elite, and he would go second only to fellow Scot Stephen Hendry on the all-time list of ranking event winners should he lift the trophy.
Higgins is tied on 28 with Ronnie O'Sullivan and Steve Davis, eight adrift of Hendry, while world number one Selby has catching up to do after landing 11 so far.
But 41-year-old Higgins feels defending Crucible champion Selby belongs in the highest class, saying: "He's one of the best who's ever played the game.
"He's got a great all-round game, and it's just testament to him that he's winning a lot of events and he wants to keep on winning. You've got to give him every credit, he's a terrific competitor."
Selby looked set to carry a lead over Ding into the third and final day of their contest, especially so when a clutch clearance of 45 nudged him 12-10 ahead.
It briefly felt like a key moment in the match, but Sheffield-based Ding, who in the morning had made a 139 break, fired consecutive runs of 117 and 128 to draw level overnight.
Typically Selby would take such a setback on the chin.
The 33-year-old from Leicester said going into the match: "You know in this tournament you're not going to be able to play well in every single session, it's more or less impossible. So you need to be able to scrap it out and I've shown in the past I can do that."
Their semi-final wraps up on Saturday afternoon, with Higgins and Hawkins due to contest morning and evening sessions.
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