Thirty-two competitors were whittled down to just four as Sheffield’s Crucible were treated to another day of semi-final action.
Barry Hawkins sits on a 9-7 lead going into Saturday’s 10am session in a pretty even contest with Mark Williams, while Scot John Higgins has currently got the better of Kyren Wilson and enjoys a 13-11 advantage.
John Higgins 9-7 Kyren Wilson (second session)
In the second-session of this semi-final match-up, Kyren Wilson, experiencing his first taste on the one-table set-up at the competition, trailed nine-time semi-finalist John Higgins 5-3.
Wilson appeared calm and composed, undeterred by the unquestionable challenge that stood in front of him. The first frame of the penultimate morning session of the competition looked to have temporarily evaded him when he missed a clear-cut opportunity to pot a red with him nearing a 40-point break. Higgins, then, had a chance to make him pay but his foul minutes later was enough for Wilson to be able to claw back a frame to make it 5-4.
The dream start for Wilson, who has impressed the Crucible crowd throughout this year’s installment in Sheffield.
It was a finely-poised contest in the first session and it was evident that it was set to continue in this second session.
What followed epitomised just that. Higgins restored his two-frame advantage in a 34-minute knife-edged contest. Higgins could have had it secured much earlier but it was credit to Wilson’s stubborn display. He’s still proving to be a real contender and wants to put his previous ‘bad boy image’ behind him; his newfound approach appearing to win the hearts of the Sheffield-goers.
The world number nine struggled to command any significant presence as Higgins notched 48 unanswered points in the following frame.
While Wilson was largely a spectator, he did cause Higgins to squirm in his seat for a moment as he went on a break of 19. Experience unduly showed, however, with Higgins potting the yellow in superb fashion before winning the frame to open up a 7-4 lead.
It was a solid performance from Higgins, not necessarily eye-catching but a get-the-job-done type display.
Wilson, did, though, regain a frame after a glaring error in the frame before to make it 7-5; a gentle reminder of the challenge to come for Higgins.
He then secured the next frame to make it 7-6 with three frames left of this session to keep Higgins on his toes. The snooker wasn’t spectacular but was steady and cagey. It was still well-received by an impressed Crucible crowd, though.
Wilson had trailed all the way through this semi-final tie and went for the yellow instead of the brown in a chance to level-up, and he screwed his attempt.
A black ball shoot-out duly followed, and it was Higgins who claimed a huge frame to make it 8-6.
They ended 9-7 going into the 7pm session.
Barry Hawkins 5-3 Mark Williams
Williams, a two-time winner on this circuit, came out flying and recorded an 80-point break to reduce Hawkins’ advantage to just the one frame.
He went a step further in the next frame, too, to draw level and serve as a reminder to Hawkins – a former finalist – that he had a game on his hands.
But Williams soon missed a chance to pot a red in the next frame, giving Hawkins a chance to bounce back, but Williams then went on to record a break of 63 and claim the next frame to make it 6-5.
Williams then executed a contender for shot of the Championships when he levelled the next frame to make it 6-6. The Crucible crowd are in for a treat when these two conclude their tie tomorrow.
What followed was a somewhat scrappy exchange but entertaining nonetheless, and Hawkins stormed to the next two frames to run out 8-6 in front.
Hawkins then continued his fine form in a dramatic battle to pot the pink in a 27-minute frame. Williams wrestled with it but the frame belonged to Hawkins who stormed to what could be an all-important 9-6 lead in a match-up fitting of the semi-final backdrop.
Williams had the last say in the session, however, and made the score 9-7 going into Saturday’s 10am session.
John Higgins 13-11 Kyren Wilson (final session of the day before Saturday’s final session of the match at 2:30pm)
Fresh off a break since their morning session, this was going to be a real indulgence for the lucky Friday night crowd.
Four-time champion Higgins was a favourite going into this 7pm match-up, although Wilson had gone close earlier in the day to wiping out his lead.
He certainly came out with a point to prove and recorded the first century of the day, totaling an unanswered break of 124 to reduce Higgins’ lead to one.
Higgins ensured that Wilson knew it wasn’t going to be quite as easy as that and responded in emphatic fashion to regain his two-frame advantage before adding a third as it started to quickly slip from Wilson’s clutches.
Wilson then pulled one back in the final frame before the mid-session interval with a break of 81 to make it 11-9 to keep the Englishman firmly in contention.
The Warrior struggled in the subsequent frame, however, trailing 12-9 as the session began to reach its conclusion.
It was all now a matter of keeping within touching distance for the Kettering-born potter, and he did just that with his second century of the session, reducing Higgins’ lead to 12-10.
Higgins failed to pot what looked a simple blue in the next frame and, in customary fashion, the hungry Wilson chalked a 93-point break to slash the Scot’s lead in half.
Worry was etched across his face as he just couldn’t shake off the 26-year-old going into the final frame of the session.
Higgins commanded it, though, and recorded an impressive -point break to re-instill a two frame cushion, leaving the score on the night 13-11. There were seven occasions where Wilson was within a frame of his opponent but Higgins has stood strong, remained composed and will undoubtedly want little fuss tomorrow afternoon when play resumes.