JOHN HIGGINS produced the best snooker of the Cazoo Champion of Champions so far to storm into the semi-finals.
The Wizard of Wishaw swept aside Ding Junhui 6-1 in the Group 1 final at Bolton’s Toughsheet Stadium, to set up a tournament semi-final against Mark Allen on Saturday night.
The snooker was of the highest quality and Higgins had the crowd buzzing in the opening frame as he edged towards a maximum 147 break.
At 48-years-old, he would have been the oldest man in snooker history to make a maximum, but his bid came undone when he was on 96 and the 13th red rattled in the jaws of a pocket.
Ding, nicknamed Enter The Dragon, hit back immediately with a 106 break to level the match, before Higgins regained the lead with a break of 83.
Higgins, who has been a professional for 31 years, didn’t look back after that as he reeled off the next four frames with breaks of 80 or higher to book his third Champion of Champions semi-final appearance.
Higgins, who lost only one frame all day, said: “I felt good out there today and I really enjoyed it. It’s a brilliant venue and I can’t wait to come back on Saturday.
“Me and Mark always have great matches. Last time he pipped me 9-8 in the Northern Ireland final so maybe I owe him one back. I can’t wait to play him.”
Higgins was firing on all cylinders from Wednesday’s first break, beating Chris Wakelin 4-0 in the Group 1 opener as he opened with a 70 and never looked back.
Wakelin, who had not beaten Higgins in three attempts, looked out-of-sorts in his first appearance at the Champion of Champions, and never recovered from missing an important pink in the second frame.
The other best of seven frames Group match was the battle of the two Chinese stars, with man of the moment, Zhang Anda, looking to book a clash against his idol, Scotsman Higgins.
Arriving on the back of his weekend International Championship victory, he fought back brilliantly from 3-0 down to level against Ding – who was a last-minute replacement for Ronnie O’Sullivan.
However, he was finally beaten in a thrilling decider on the final black.
There are still a limited number of tickets available across the week, starting from £15 a session.