|Betfred World Snooker Championship|
|Venue: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 20 April-6 May|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC One, BBC Two, Red Button, iPlayer, Connected TV, BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app.|
Four-time champion John Higgins will play Judd Trump in the World Championship final, in a repeat of their 2011 meeting.
Higgins, 43, has been runner-up for the past two years and progressed on Saturday by beating David Gilbert 17-16 in a thrilling semi-final.
Trump, 29, was beaten by Higgins eight years ago and made it through after beating qualifier Gary Wilson 17-11.
The best-of-35 final begins on Sunday at 14:00 BST and concludes on Monday.
All four sessions from the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield will be shown live on BBC TV and online, with a record £500,000 on offer for the winner.
“Me or John haven’t been the best players this week but we’ve just managed to dig in when we needed to and just get over the line,” said Trump.
“We’re both very tired – it’s mentally draining. I watched John earlier and he was a bit emotional getting back to the final. To be back in the final against him eight years on, it’s going to be an epic.”
BBC analyst Alan McManus, a three-time Crucible semi-finalist, said the outcome of the final was “difficult to predict”.
“I think we’re going to get both of them trying to outsmart one another,” he said. “I think the scoring will be marginally higher than the semis, it’s going to be awesome.”
Emotional Gilbert falls agonisingly short
Scot Higgins was in poor form for large periods of his contest with Gilbert. But he overturned deficits of 8-3, 10-6 and 14-11, taking the last two frames with breaks of 139 and 55 to advance.
Higgins had to draw on all of his experience to claw back Gilbert’s advantage and a break of 96, following a rare double re-rack, moved him ahead in the match for the first time at 15-14.
Englishman Gilbert, appearing at this stage for the first time at the age of 37, dug deep with a 78 to bring the score back level before going ahead after a 40-minute 31st frame.
Higgins forced a decider with a total clearance of 139, then capitalised on a missed black by Gilbert to make an ultimately match-deciding 55 break.
“I don’t know how I got through,” said Higgins. “I apologised to David because I brought him down to my level. I was very poor and he let me off the hook in the first three sessions. He should have been 15-9 or 16-8 ahead. I was over the moon to be only 13-11 behind.
“My concentration was wavering. I was playing shots and thinking, ‘What did I just do there?’ I could have really thrown the towel in during the first three sessions, I was getting so annoyed with myself, but wanted to just try and hang in.”
Gilbert was working as a farmer with his dad as recently as 2014 and was a 100-1 outside shot to win the title this year.
In an emotional post match news conference, he said: “I loved every minute of it. I came here with no expectations but I am absolutely gutted to lose. It would have been incredible to reach a world final.
“I have never won anything, I have come close but this is the best couple of weeks I have had in my snooker career by a mile. It might be the closest I will come to winning the World Championship.”
Higgins eventually shows class
Reaching the final of snooker’s showpiece event caps an outstanding turnaround for Higgins, who was at such a low point in December that he hinted at retirement at the end of the season because of a lack of motivation.
In a season containing 20 ranking and four non-ranking events, Higgins has failed to win any. “I was at a low ebb at Christmas time, the worst I have been since playing the game,” said Higgins after Saturday’s win.
“That is forgotten about. Getting out of the house and having a purpose to get up on a morning and practising helped with the results.”
His performance in the second session against Gilbert, in which he missed the simplest of pots and produced loose positional play, was so dreadful that six-time world champion Steve Davis said it was “ridiculous” and that he had “never seen anything quite like it”.
But he still somehow managed to rejuvenate himself in the latter part of the match and eventually showed his class and how good he can be under pressure, making a tournament-high 143 break as well as 139 in the penultimate frame.
“I can’t really explain it,” added Higgins. “I thought it was such a high-quality final session at the semi-final stage. It was a great game.”
Trump grabs his opportunity
Trump is widely regarded as one of the best players never to have won the World Championship. The only time he has reached the final was almost a decade ago when he lost to Higgins, coming agonisingly close to lifting the biggest trophy in the sport with his all-out attacking play, which he himself labelled “naughty snooker”.
He is now a more mature, all-round player and came into the tournament as one of the favourites after demolishing world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan in January’s Masters and winning two ranking events.
The early exits of O’Sullivan and three-time champion Mark Selby from his half of the draw gave him a more comfortable route to the final.
Although Wilson made a 68 break in the final session, Trump took the three he needed, including breaks of 97 and 88, to advance.
Trump said: “It’s an unbelievable feeling to get back after so long. When I got to the final the first time you think it’s going to happen every single year but at my age now I’m mature enough to appreciate how much effort goes in.
“I’m still young in snooker terms but the sooner you can get it [winning the title] out the way the better. It’s going to be a monumental effort to beat John over this distance.”
For his part, Wilson was left frustrated after coming up short in the biggest match of his career.
“First and foremost Judd deserved to win, I wasn’t good enough today, I wasn’t good enough yesterday, but I’ve got to say that table is disgusting,” he said.
“It’s running off all over the place, you’re getting square bounces, kicks every other shot. It’s not an excuse it’s just simply saying that I struggled myself, but that made it even worse.
“Earlier rounds the table was spot on, I can’t understand how you can make such a bad job of it when you get it down to one table. It’s a shame, I feel like the game was spoiled a little bit.”
Crucible centuries record broken
Trump’s 114 break in the morning session was the 87th century at this year’s World Championship, a record at the Crucible Theatre that surpasses the previous best set in both 2015 and 2016.
Wilson and Higgins have made the most centuries at this year’s tournament so far with eight, while Trump is one adrift with seven.
The record for most centuries made in a single tournament is 16 by seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry in 2002.
With the best-of-35 frame final still to come, the 100 landmark could be reached for the first time.
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