Mark Williams takes control of World Championship final

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Mark Williams produced a three-frame burst at the end of one of the longest days in his career as he took control of the Betfred World Championship final.

He and John Higgins have braced themselves for a close finish to the title match and that may still materialise on Monday.

But for Williams a 10-7 lead is a terrific advantage to carry into day two of the marathon best-of-35 battle.

Born just two months apart in 1975, Welshman Williams and Scotsman Higgins are contesting the first title match between two forty-somethings since this once-nomadic tournament’s 1977 move to Sheffield.

Whoever prevails will become the oldest champion since 1978, when 45-year-old Ray Reardon triumphed, and for 42-year-old Higgins it would mean joining Ronnie O’Sullivan on five titles. Williams, who turned 43 in March, is chasing a third win – 15 years after landing snooker’s greatest prize for a second time.


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Against most expectations Williams made a flying start to the final, leading 5-1 at one stage. Higgins drew level at 7-7 after making three century breaks, runs of 119, 127 and 117, and momentum looked to have shifted to the Scot.

But Williams notched his first ton, a 118, in the 15th frame before pulling away for the second time in the day to set up a tantalising finale.

Higgins showed his mettle against Wilson and also ousted Judd Trump in a quarter-final final-frame decider. Such resilience could prove important on Monday.

“You’d hope so. But it could go Pete Tong, I’m sure,” Higgins said. “It’s been proved in the quarters and the semi and it’d be great to have that back-up in the final.”

He was looking for a better outcome than last year when he surged 10-4 clear of Mark Selby and had the title in his crosshairs before running out of steam.

Williams had crossed the line against Hawkins just moments before midnight on Saturday. His head was spinning, his game was in pieces, and Williams predicted Higgins would whitewash him in the final if they had to start immediately.

Indeed Williams finished so late against Hawkins that when he left the Crucible after media interviews, his best food option was a takeaway.

“Doner meat n chips never tasted so nice”, Williams tweeted at 2.14am. Less than 12 hours later, he was walking out for his fourth Crucible final.

Williams was prepared to take the fight to Higgins were it to become a game of wits.

“Hopefully if it goes close towards the end I won’t collapse like a cheap tent again,” said Williams.

Last year he failed to qualify for the World Championship and considered retirement. Wife Joanne urged him to carry on, and a tweak of his technique has given his career an unexpected lift, with Williams taking his season’s earnings beyond £600,000 by reaching the final in Sheffield. The champion will take home £425,000.

Manchester United club captain Michael Carrick was in the crowd on Sunday, but it was the cue veterans who were the stars of the show.

They were hailed as “gladiators” by O’Sullivan, with whom Williams and Higgins joined the professional ranks in 1992.

That trio have become known as snooker’s ‘class of 92’, taking the sport to a new level. On a broiling Sunday in Sheffield all three were inside the Crucible, with O’Sullivan on Eurosport commentary duty.

“This is what I call pay-per-view sport – two players who are true gladiators of their sport,” O’Sullivan said. “They are the best of the best.”

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