Judd Trump showed tremendous resolve to stand firm in the face of a Mark Williams onslaught to win the deciding frame and book his place in the final of the World Championship.
Trump appeared to have one foot in the final after opening up a 7-1 lead after the first session and retaining that advantage in the second session.
Williams fought back to win six of the eight frames on Friday evening, and continued the onslaught on Saturday afternoon.
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The Welshman drew level in the 28th and 30th frames, and went one up with two to play, but Trump won the 32nd and 33rd to reach his third Crucible final.
After being subjected to a barrage the previous evening, Trump stemmed the tide by taking the first frame of the final session.
Williams had a chance to cut the deficit to one, but he ran out of position on 42 and missed a tight cut to the right middle and served up the frame for Trump.
While Trump was on the end of a barrage from Williams the previous evening, he played pretty well as the two frames he won were secured with centuries.
He looked set to extend his lead to four frames after Williams broke down on 49, as he picked off the remaining reds and played a power black to get on the yellow. But he was halted as the pink he cannoned when knocking in the black blocked the potting angle and Williams knocked in the colours, including a stunning yellow and green, to keep himself in the hunt.
The foundations of the Williams fightback were built on brilliant long potting. He pulled off stunners in the 27th to help him over the line in a nervy affair. Both players were handed and passed up chances, but Williams took the major one to get back within a frame.
Williams left the arena on Friday evening extremely pumped up, but was soon back to his laid-back self - as demonstrated by the video of him playing table tennis with his cue case. But there was no doubt he was up for the battle and of all the balls he potted in the match, none were better than the red that got him going in the 28th.
Trump let a red run loose, but appeared to be saved as the cue ball was tight to the green. Unperturbed, Williams took it on and knocked it in to the bottom left to set up a stunning break of 137.
“He potted it as if he was having a bash down the club,” was Philip Studd’s assessment of the red on Eurosport commentary, which sums up Williams’ attitude to the game to perfection.
It was his 15th century of the 2022 World Championship, with only Stephen Hendry’s 16 in 2002 ahead of him in the record books.
There were rare sights in the 29th: a missed pot and poor safety from Williams. They combined to hand Trump the chance to accumulate enough points to re-establish his lead as the tension began to grow.
Records do not motivate Williams, but he put his name in the Crucible history books when taking the 30th frame with a break of 138 to draw him level with Hendry for the most centuries at a World Championship. It also put Williams and Trump back together at 15-15.
There was drama, there was always going to be drama, as Williams built up a lead in the 31st, only to miss a black. Trump missed himself, but Williams could not get to the table as he appeared to have been dazzled by one of the lights. He looked uncomfortable for a few minutes but refocused as the table turned extremely messy.
Trump chipped away and held a slender lead on the colours. Both players had chances, but a negative safety on the blue from Trump proved costly as Williams laid a superb snooker, forced the error and knocked in blue and pink to take the lead for the first time in the match.
Williams had a chance in the 32nd after a ridiculous fluke of a red, but he missed the following black. Trump was able to work an advantage and fend off his opponent to take the frame and force a decider.
It was a match deserving of a decider.
Both players got in with flukes in the final frame, but fortunately for a match of such brilliance they did not prove pivotal as they failed to cash in off them.
Williams missed a blue off the back of his fluke, and Trump worked an advantage with a break of 49 but gave his opponent a sniff when missing a red with the rest.
It did not prove a telling miss, as Trump produced two audacious cross-doubles and showed huge relief when rolling in the final red to leave Williams needing three snookers which he was unable to get despite his best efforts as Trump won one of the great Crucible matches.
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