Yan Bingtao rallied to beat Neil Robertson

Masters snooker: John Higgins sets up showdown with Yan Bingtao


John Higgins beat David Gilbert 6-4 to reach his first Masters final since 2006, where he'll face debutant Yan Bingtao.

Higgins crawled over the line against Gilbert in a match which started brightly but descended into something of a nervous scrap, as the eventual winner acknowledged when speaking to the BBC.

"I personally think (semi-finals) the worst game," said the Scot. "I've always shown a bit of nerves in semi-finals. I'm delighted to get through. Dave didn't play great.

"I knew this was going to be a harder game, just to get through to the final. I thought this would be the harder game and that's the way it turned out.

"The people are maybe saying, 'you're the favourite' - that brings its own pressure. You only applaud people like Ronnie and Judd for being favourites and winning tournaments."

Higgins was spectacular in his defeat of O'Sullivan on Friday night and breaks of 106 and 107 to lead 3-2 promised a similar run to the line, but Gilbert fought back to 4-4 to ensure a tense ending - befitting off the week as a whole.

A break of 56 was enough for Higgins to edge back ahead and he finally sealed victory at the end of a lengthy 10th frame, before setting his sights on Sunday's clash with Yan.

"He's a brilliant, brilliant player," added Higgins. "He's got an old head on young shoulders. He's starting to come through now - I think he believes he can win now."

Gilbert started brightly in his quest for a first triple crown final, breaks of 80 and 86 helping him to a 2-1 lead, but after Higgins drew level he was never again ahead in the match.

"I was never the better player," confessed Gilbert. "I'm disappointed. Good luck to John."

Yan had earlier won a tense deciding frame to beat Stuart Bingham 6-5 and reach the final on his debut in the event.

The 20-year-old constructed a precise and brave break of 65, capped by a match-winning black to the centre pocket, to get the better of Bingham at the end of a four-hour struggle.

Yan had appeared set to complete a fine turnaround from 4-2 to win 6-4, only to miss a straightforward red with the rest and allow Bingham to land what might have been a decisive counter-strike.

But while both players had early openings in the 11th and final frame, it was Yan who made the match-winning contribution with a composed contribution to reach his maiden triple crown final.

Yan told BBC Sport: "Today I played very good, with so many excellent long pots. I made some good breaks and controlled the cue ball."

Ronnie O'Sullivan and Eurosport studio analysis of Yan Bingtao's victory over Stuart Bingham

Bingham can have few complaints, having spent the middle portion of the match missing chances and watching on as his opponent outscored him, before a stroke of luck helped the 44-year-old to win the 10th frame and force a decider.

The defending champion got in early and had his chance once more, but a thin red rattled in the jaws and that was to prove his final meaningful contribution to another epic encounter.

Yan plotted his way through a difficult pack before a stunning black left Bingham needing four snookers, and though Bingham found one of them, he immediately left his opponent another chance, and so ended his title defence.

Bingham paid tribute to Yan’s “unbelievable” performance.

"I think from 4-2, he did not leave me anything and everything was hard work," Bingham said.

"I am just disappointed because I felt that I did not play that great, but, in the same breath, Yan played really well from 4-2, so hats off to him."

"He had me in all sorts of trouble!" Stuart Bingham on Semi-Final defeat to Yan Bingtao

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