John Higgins fought back from three frames behind to beat David Gilbert 5-3 and set up a meeting with great rival Ronnie O’Sullivan in the semi-finals of the Scottish Open.
Higgins was second best for the opening three frames, as Gilbert set about building on his win over Judd Trump in the previous round.
But the four-time world champion is one of snooker’s great scrappers, and he steadied the ship in the fourth frame and powered back after the interval to take control of the contest.
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Gilbert made a bright start and seized on the errors Higgins made. That was the story of the first frame, as the Scot left a red in the jaws of the bottom right and Gilbert knocked in a 77.
It was a similar scenario in the second, as Higgins failed to take a chance presented to him and Gilbert stroked in a brilliant final red to set up a break of 30 to pinch the frame on the black.
Gilbert fell over the line to beat Trump, having led 3-0 only to be pegged back to 3-3. He made it three frames on the spin against Higgins, with the most confident of breaks. He was fortunate to be left an easy starter after his opponent missed a red, but from then on it was supreme stuff in a run of 130.
Higgins had been kept largely cold for three frames, but found some form in the fourth. He did not close out the frame at the first time of asking, but Gilbert was unable to get any of the three snookers he needed as the Scot got on the board.
Gilbert had a hold on the frame after the interval, but ran out of position when in the balls and Higgins countered. As in the previous frame, the Scot did not close it out but Gilbert was unable to get the solitary snooker he required as Higgins cut the gap to one.
Winning frames four and five in gritty, Higgins-like fashion appeared to spark the Scot’s competitive streak. His all-round play is the envy of many, and he showed the break-building side of his game in the sixth with a 139.
Gilbert struggled in the face of Trump’s comeback, and only triumphed after the world number two missed a simple green in the decider. It had a similar feel on Friday, as he missed a black off its spot in the seventh and Higgins later pounced on a Gilbert miss to get in.
Higgins ran out of position with the frame at his mercy, and left a chance for his opponent but Gilbert's face had the look of a man who had lost seven of his eight meetings with the Scot when his brave attempt at a red stayed in the jaws of the bottom left. Higgins emerged from his seat to mop up and move ahead for the first time in the contest.
Gilbert had a chance to stop the bleeding and force a decider, but ran out of position and was dragged into a safety exchange. It was a battle which lasted over six minutes, but it was won by Higgins.
The reds began the safety exchange tightly grouped, they finished it well split and it fell nicely for Higgins. As in earlier frames, Higgins did not close it out at the first time of asking but Gilbert missed immediately afterwards and it allowed the Scot to set up a meeting with O’Sullivan in what will be Higgins' 78th ranking semi-final.
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