Luca Brecel converted his afternoon dominance into title success, as he withstood a fightback from John Higgins to win the Scottish Open 9-5.
The Belgian, who was supreme in opening up a 6-2 lead in the afternoon, was beaten in the UK Championship final a week ago, but he put that disappointment out of his mind to clinch his second ranking title - four years on from his China Championship success.
For Higgins, it is his fourth defeat in a final this season, following on from losses in the English Open, Northern Ireland Open and Champion of Champions, but he did make Brecel work for his win after being 8-2 down at one stage.
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Brecel carried the momentum from the afternoon session into the evening, pouncing on Higgins unfortunately running out of position in the ninth.
Higgins laid a safety, and it forced Brecel to take on a pot with no easy safety option of his own. The confident Belgian smashed the ball into the pack of the pocket, and he dropped on the black to set up a run of 79.
Brecel played the contest without fear, as he showed with a series of daring pots to take the 10th frame and move within one of victory.
Higgins is one of snooker’s grittiest players and never knows when he is beaten. He received encouragement from the crowd in Llandudno and was able to extend the contest when taking the 11th. He needed three bites, after twice breaking down only to be allowed back in by Brecel.
The Belgian’s snooker had been nerveless, but they crept in with the winning line in sight. After running out of position, Brecel missed an awkward green - and Higgins knocked in a 73 to cut the gap to four at the interval.
Brecel was edgy before the interval, and the jitters continued upon the resumption. He missed a tough plant and Higgins stepped in with a glorious break of 53 which he accumulated with pink and black out of commission. The frame was not won at the first time of asking, but Higgins frustrated Brecel as the Belgian chased snookers in vain.
With nerves creeping in, Brecel looked like a man who needed a helping hand. A poor safety from Higgins handed him an opener in the 14th. A mid-range red found the middle of the pocket and a superb break of 127 was enough to secure the Stephen Hendry Trophy, and a first win over Higgins in a major event.
Luca Brecel has seized control of the Scottish Open final and will take a 6-2 lead over John Higgins into the evening session.
Higgins is bidding for a first title of the season, following defeats in the finals of the English Open, Northern Ireland Open and Champion of Champions, but will need to dig deep in the evening in Llandudno following excellent play from Brecel.
Brecel, seven days on from his loss in the final of the UK Championship, produced polished snooker and also pounced on uncharacteristic errors from Higgins to secure a dominant position.
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Higgins was so impressive against Ronnie O’Sullivan in the semi-finals, but his afternoon started poorly as a miss enabled Brecel to take the opening frame.
A break of 96 secured the second for Brecel, while a miss with the rest from Higgins in the third enabled the Belgian to open up a three-frame lead.
Higgins got on the board in the fourth, but a missed red from the Scot in the fifth allowed Brecel to restore a three-frame lead.
There was high drama in the sixth, as Higgins was in control and potted the final red - only to cannon the black into the bottom left. Brecel went from requiring a snooker to being able to win and he rolled in a brilliant long red and cleared the colours to extend his advantage.
Higgins stopped the bleeding when taking the seventh with his highest break of the afternoon, a 70, but Brecel hit back with a rock-solid knock of 104, his first century of the tournament, and is three frames from victory.
The race to nine resumes at 7pm UK time.
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