Four-time Crucible king John Higgins once again displayed his ability to turn it on when it is needed most as he battled past Stuart Bingham 13-11 to book a quarter-final berth in the World Championship.
Scotland’s Higgins now faces a mouthwatering last-eight tussle with in-form Neil Robertson. The Australian has been the player of the tournament so far but could face an almighty test against one of snooker’s all-time greats.
Beaten in the final for the last two years, by Mark Selby and Mark Williams respectively, veteran Higgins has mostly endured a forgettable season this time around although he has once again raised his performance levels inside the Crucible.
Higgins was pushed all the way by 2015 champion Bingham and there were never more than two frames between them after Higgins recovered from an early 4-1 deficit.
They were level at 8-8 going into the final session on Monday before Higgins forged in front 11-9 at the mid-session break. Bingham showed his own grit in taking the next two to restore parity before Higgins edged back in front 12-11.
Bingham then went for a risky plant on two reds, which missed its target, allowing his opponent make a break of 63 that would prove decisive.
Higgins admits he put in the hard yards before Sheffield but still expects a tough encounter with former winner Robertson.
“I put in some work with Anthony McGill and Stephen Maguire before coming here, so I was coming prepared better than I have been in the rest of the season,” he said.
“Neil’s the tournament favourite for a reason. He could be sitting here with five tournaments under his belt this season, but for Ronnie O’Sullivan beating him in a couple of finals. He’s playing with a lot of confidence, so he’s going to be tough to stop. I’ve just got to play my own game and see where it takes me.”
Higgins is 2.63 to win their quarter-final, with Robertson the 1.44 favourite.