John Higgins held on to beat Yan Bingtao 6-5 in their Champion of Champions semi-final at the University of Bolton Stadium in Bolton.
Yan took control of the match early on, opening up a two-frame advantage, but a three-frame blitz saw Higgins claim the initiative, and the Scot would hold his nerve in a final-frame shootout to seal a spot in the final where he will face Judd Trump.
The match was marked by some attritional safety play but also saw nine 50+ breaks in an epic tussle, with Yan contributing 54, 74, 70, 51 and 59, and Higgins compiling runs of 51, 89, 70 and 89.
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Higgins had won their two encounters this season – at the English and Northern Ireland Opens – but Yan defeated the four-time world champion 10-8 to win the Masters in January and confirm his status as the greatest prodigy in the game today.
And Yan took an early two-frame advantage. The 21-year-old produced two pressure pots – on the green and brown – to seal the first frame and backed that up with a 54 in frame two. However, Higgins would win an attritional third that included a near 20-minute safety exchange to cut the arrears.
A 74 would re-establish the two-frame cushion for Yan but three frames on the spin – built on breaks of 89 and 70 – would see Higgins take the lead and the initiative for the first time in the match.
Yan, having lost three on the spin, dead-weighted a red into the yellow pocket early in the eighth before compiling a 70 to set up a three-frame shootout for a spot in the final.
Higgins was in first next and looked well-placed to put himself within one frame of a showdown against Trump, but ran out of position and an elementary blunder – going in off as he played safe – allowed Yan in. However, trying to force a red to the bottom left, Yan missed and allowed Higgins to clear to the pink to win frame nine.
The clock was edging towards midnight as Yan held his nerve in the 10th, producing a run of 59 to send the match to a final-frame decider. An 89 would see Higgins over the line, with the 46-year-old producing a remarkable double on the match-ball.
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