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Mark Williams rolls back the years to edge out Barry Hawkins in epic World Championship Semi-Final

Mark Williams shakes hands with Barry Hawkins (credit: Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images)

Mark Williams held his nerve to deny Barry Hawkins 17-15 in a breath-taking encounter and progress to his first World Championship final at The Crucible for 15 years.

Williams, the 2000 and 2003 World Champion, continued his remarkable run of resurgence this season by moving a step closer to a historic hat-trick in Sheffield, aged 43.

The Welsh left-hander had to wait until the 31st frame to lead 2013 finalist Hawkins before hauling himself over the line in a gripping 32nd frame which ended just shy of midnight.

Williams will now take on John Higgins, the man with whom he turned professional back in 1992, for the record £425,000 top prize and the chance to become the oldest World Champion since Ray Reardon in 1978.

"I just couldn't get in front but I managed it towards the end," Williams told BBC Sport. "We were both twitching like hell, it was horrible!

"I don't want to play snooker feeling like that anymore. I haven't had a feeling like that for 10 or 15 years since I beat Hendry on a re-spot and I didn't like it. 

"My arms were shaking, my legs were shaking and that's not me.

"We had a bit of a laugh and joke towards the end but Barry was gone. I'm just over the moon."

"I'm 43 years of age and in the final of the World Championship, I couldn't have dreamt it 12 months ago," he added.

Williams celebrates (Photo by Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images)
Hawkins had established a 5-3 lead following Thursday's first session, producing breaks of 129, 74, 52 and 90 to Williams' 88 and 110 in a high quality start.

The next eight frames were shared on Friday as Hawkins maintained his two-frame cushion at the halfway stage, adding breaks of 63, 57 and 56 to Williams' 80 and 62.

The nip and tuck nature of the contest continued as the duo also shared the eight frames on Saturday morning, with 'The Hawk' producing a brace of centuries (128 and 133) on the way to making it 13-11.

Williams took the opening frame of the final session with a 55 break, but after taking frame 26, Hawkins then missed a risky final red with the rest to allow the Welshman to clear and peg back to 14-13 behind.

Williams then levelled the match, but Hawkins returned after the mid-session interval to fire in breaks of 45 and 60 and edge himself back into the ascendancy.

Reigning Northern Ireland Open and German Masters champion Williams battled back to restore parity before finally making his breakthrough in the proceeding frame to hit the front for the first time.

The dramatic 32nd frame went down to the final pink, and it was Williams who knocked it in from long range before cutting in the black to seal his spot in the final.

A dejected Hawkins admitted: "That was brutal. We were both gone at the end there. 

"Your mind just starts spinning when you're out there. 

"I can't complain, it's been a good finish to the year, it's not a great way to lose but I'm looking forward to a nice break now."


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Mark Williams rolls back the years to edge out Barry Hawkins in epic World Championship Semi-Final

Mark Williams held his nerve to deny Barry Hawkins 17-15 in a breath-taking encounter and progress to his first World Championship final at The Crucible for 15 years.

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