Selby will play Higgins in World Championship final

Mark Selby

Mark Selby won the world title in 2014 and 2016

Defending champion Mark Selby will face John Higgins in the World Championship final in a repeat of their 2007 clash.

English world number one Selby reached the showpiece for the third time in four years by holding off Ding Junhui 17-15 in a gripping encounter.

And Scotland’s Higgins joined him by winning the solitary frame of the final session to beat Barry Hawkins 17-8.

When the two met at The Crucible a decade ago, Higgins won 18-13 to win the second of his four titles.

The final starts on Sunday at 14:00 BST and will conclude on Monday.

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Higgins beats Ding Junhui – 5 best shots

Selby proves to be too good

BBC pundits described the Selby-Ding match as one of the all-time greatest to be staged at the venue, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary of hosting the tournament.

Selby, who beat Ding in last year’s final, led 10-7 before being pulled back to 12-12 after the Chinese made back-to-back centuries.

The reigning champion edged to within a frame, and despite Ding getting back to 16-15, a 72 break saw the Englishman through.

The last-four tie featured 23 breaks over 50 between the two players, including seven centuries. Ding exits the tournament having made 13 centuries, three short of Stephen Hendry’s all-time record.

The world number four had displayed much of his new-found mental strength by leading the match, keeping check in the tactical exchanges and hitting back with superb 117 and 128 breaks. He reduced the deficit to one again, yet was unable to advance.

“I should have won more frames when I had chances and that is what cost me,” Ding said. “I could not make any mistakes, but that is what happened.

“I can see I have improved a lot. I play with more confidence and more aggressively. The fans need to see more snooker like that from me.

“But once Mark gets in front, it is very hard to come back. You have to believe in yourself and wait for the chance and take it. You cannot miss.”

Selby, 33, is the best in the sport with his abrasive style of play – claiming all eight out of nine long-drawn frames which lasted more than 30 minutes – and his resolve was too much to overcome.

Ding, 30, had beaten two fellow Chinese opponents and five-time winner Ronnie O’Sullivan in the tournament.


Ding is attempting to become snooker’s first Asian champion

How the final session panned out

Selby came out firing in the final session with breaks of 74 and 96 to lead by two, but Ding hit back again with a 52 run.

Frame 28 was the turning point. Ding missed a straightforward red looking to restore parity at 14-14, but Selby edged the frame to lead by two again.

Ding attempted two snookers with just three balls remaining on the table, but Selby pocketed a long blue to go one away from victory.

Ding would not go away and pulled two back including a 73 break, and had chances to go all-square at 16-16, but Selby punched the air, banged the table and screamed in delight as he progressed with a calmly taken 72 break.

The Leicester man now has the chance to join the sport’s legends Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis and Ronnie O’Sullivan as the only players to win back-to-back world titles in the modern era.

“The reaction at the end was relief – I just did not want to do something silly,” Selby said. “I am only 33 but I feel about 53.

“The adrenaline was pumping and I cannot wait for the final. To win again, for a third time, is something I can only dream of.”


Six-time world champion Steve Davis on BBC TV:

Mark [Selby] is a marvellous competitive animal and you saw at the end how much fire and determination he has. This is a game of control – you cannot let the emotions run riot during it – but it all came out at the end. Selby has what it takes.

Frame scores

First session: 45-76 (76), 77-22 (68), 24-84 (84), 99-0 (99), 73-34, 53-87 (52), 1-119 (56, 50), 0-116 (110) 5-3 Ding

Second session: 105-23 (100), 61-49, 62-26, 81-0 (67), 0-94 (84), 96-9 (85), 0-139 (139), 66-27 9-7 Selby

Third session: 128-8 (128), 6-95 (95), 6-80, 64-25 (64), 14-86, 66-61, 1-117 (117), 1-135 (128) 12-12

Fourth session: 113-2 (74), 96-1 (96), 0-61 (52), 75-43, 75-47, 1-66, 14-73 (73), 84-9 (72) 17-15 Selby

Can Higgins defy his own expectations?

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World Championship: John Higgins sees off Barry Hawkins – 5 best shots

‘The Wizard of Wishaw’ Higgins last reached the final in 2011 when he beat Judd Trump and questioned whether he was still capable of reaching another final.

But at the age of 41, he has enjoyed a resurgence in his career, winning three non-ranking titles this season and coming runner-up at the Scottish Open.

Last season’s International Championship triumph took him to 28 ranking titles victories, putting him joint-second on the all-time list alongside Ronnie O’Sullivan and Steve Davis and eight behind Hendry.

Despite leading from the start against Hawkins and claiming six frames in a row in the third session to pull away, he was not at his best and missing simple blacks off the spot will be of major concern to him.

He needed a couple of opportunities to claim the frame he needed, but finished in style with a century break – his first of the match – to reach his sixth Crucible final.

Higgins is seeking to become the oldest winner since Welshman Ray Reardon, who was 45 when he won in 1978.

Frame scores

First session: 93-28 (63), 69-22, 67-19 (59), 75-59 (Higgins 69, Hawkins 59), 30-100 (62), 30-95 (71), 65-25, 39-74 (74) 5-3 Higgins

Second session: 40-65, 92-6, 73-16 (51), 0-125 (115), 61-24 (53), 18-91, 89-0 (89), 73-45 10-6 Higgins

Third session: 8-76 (69), 70-41, 56-47, 70-13, 65-62, 70-0, , 96-4 (90), 48-80 (58) 16-8 Higgins

Fourth session: 128-12 (120) 17-8 Higgins

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