John Higgins of Scotland chalks the cue in the semi-final match against David Gilbert of England on day fourteen of the 2019 Betfred World Snooker Championship at Crucible Theatre on May 3, 2019 in Sheffield, England.
The four-times champion will be appearing in his eighth final against Judd Trump who beat Gary Wilson 17-11 later on Sunday. He lifted his first world title in Sheffield in 1998 followed by victories in 2007, 2009 and 2011. He has lost the past two finals to Mark Selby and Mark Williams.
Higgins said: “I was at a low ebb around Christmas – probably the lowest ebb I’ve ever been in playing the game.
“I can’t really explain to be honest. I apologised to Dave – I told him I brought him down to my level in the first three sessions.
I was really poor and I think Dave really let me off the hook. I was over the moon to be only 13-11 (on Friday night). I was feeling good but nothing was happening.
The Scot’s dissatisfaction had again been plain to see in the second session on Friday which was classed by some snooker experts as one of the worst he has ever played.
Higgins had trailed 13-11 overnight, and lost the first frame of the afternoon after seeing a pink to the middle bag stay out.
Tamworth potter Gilbert produced a 105 knock to extend his lead to three frames, but Higgins was clearly not in the mood to slip quietly into the night as he restored parity at 14-14 boosted by knocks of 52 and 74.
A 96 from Higgins was enough for a 15-14 lead and a fourth straight frame, but Gilbert called on his own powers of reserves with breaks of 78 and 53 seeing him re-establish the lead at 16-15.
16th seed Gilbert was one frame short of the winning line, but a loose safety shot prompted Higgins to produce a quite stunning break of 139 to level at 16-16.
Gilbert was first among the balls in the decider, but could only make 28 as he missed a tricky black with Higgins rolling in 55.
A bout of safety ensued, but another tactical mistake by Gilbert saw Higgins slot the final red before clearing to the blue for another famous victory on the game's biggest stage.
Tearful Gilbert, who had arrived at the tournament with few expectations but twice blew a five-frame advantage in the match, broke down in tears in the post-match press conference.
Gilbert said: “I’m absolutely gutted to lose. I could have got to a world final but I’ve got nothing to feel sad about. I came here with no expectations and to end up on the one table against a legend like John, it was an honour.”
At the age of 43, he will hope to make it third time lucky after successive final defeats here. Trump leads Wilson 14-10 before they play to a finish on Saturday night.