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John Higgins battles past Yan Bingtao and books Champion of Champions final spot

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John Higgins v Yan Bingtao live stream | Champion of Champions 2021 Semi-Final preview

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Judd Trump v John Higgins live stream | Champion of Champions 2021 final preview

Higgins is seeking a sixth Welsh Open crown (Taka Wu/Matchroom Multi Sport)

John Higgins will play Judd Trump in the Champion of Champions final after edging out Yan Bingtao 6-5 in a thrilling encounter at the Bolton Whites Hotel on Saturday.

The 2016 champion is through to the showpiece of the popular invitational event for the first time since lifting the trophy five years ago.

Despite recovering from 3-1 down to lead 4-3, the Wizard was taken to a deciding frame by the Masters winner, who was appearing in his first semi-final at this tournament.

However, the four-time World champion held his nerve with a timely break of 89 scraping him over the line.

This was the third meeting between the players in as many events, with Higgins prevailing in their clashes at the Northern Ireland Open and English Open.

But the Scotsman found himself 2-0 down; losing the opener on the pink after missing a relatively straightforward green, while Group Two winner Yan won the safety battle in the second before doubling his lead on the black.

Higgins, who thumped Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-1 to win Group Three on Thursday, replied with 51, but a run of 74 saw the Tiger restore his two-frame buffer at the interval.

The world number seven responded well upon the resumption of play; controlling frame five before runs of 89 and 70 edged him in front for the first time at 4-3.

Although Yan, who was searching for a third win over a World champion in as many matches this week, demonstrated his determination by stopping the rot with a 70 break of his own.

Both players had chances in frame nine; Yan’s 51 cancelling out Higgins’ earlier 43. But it was the latter who regained the initiative following a neat 31 clearance from the penultimate red.

Nevertheless, the 21-year-old dug deep with 59 to stay alive and force a decider as the clock struck midnight in Bolton.

But the world number 12 could only watch as the four-time World champion crunched in a brilliant opening red, which paved the way for a frame and match-winning contribution of 89.

“It feels amazing. They’re special moments in your career against a great champion in Yan,” Higgins said. “I managed to dig in and work my way back in.

“The atmosphere was incredible; I cannot wait for the final now. I am sure it will be even better.

“I will have to play at the top of my game to have a chance of beating Judd. He’s a fantastic player now; a great all-around champion.

“He’s become a winning machine over the last two or three years.

“Obviously, I have had two defeats [in the last two finals]. I do not want to make it three defeats. I will be trying my absolute nuts off.”