John Higgins and Yan Bingtao set up final show-down at The Masters
John Higgins will face Yan Bingtao in the final of The 2021 Masters after the pair overcame David Gilbert and Stuart Bingham in Saturday’s Semi-Finals.
Yan, 20, continued his dream debut in the sport’s most prestigious invitational tournament by ending the reign of defending champion Bingham in a last-frame decider.
Having already seen off Neil Robertson and Stephen Maguire in final frame shoot-outs earlier in the week, the Chinese youngster underlined his fearless temperament by edging through to his first Triple Crown final.
Bingham led 3-1 and 4-2, but Yan dug deep to secure four of the last five frames and clinch the biggest win of his career so far.
“Today I played very good and made so many excellent long pots,” said Yan. “I controlled the table and cueball and the safety was good too.”
Asked if he believes he can go on to win the title on Sunday, he replied: “Maybe. This is a big tournament with only the top 16 players.”
Bingham took the opening frame before Yan levelled with a superb break of 94, but a 62 break in the third frame proved insufficient for the Chinese ace as ‘Ball Run’ regained the lead.
Bingham extended his lead with a break of 87, and after Yan had closed the gap with an 88 break after the interval, the 2015 World Champion made a 57 to go two clear again.
A run of three consecutive frames began with a 63 break for Yan before dominating frame eight by 106 points to nil and registering a century to turn the tables at 5-4.
Yan came within three pots of sealing victory in frame ten, but only for Bingham to snatch it and force a decider.
However, the youngster dusted himself down and recovered magnificently to kill off the contest with a break of 65.
He will now face Higgins in Sunday’s final at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes after the two-time Betfred Masters champion ended the run of Gilbert by six frames to four.
Gilbert was appearing in his second successive Masters Semi-Final but fell short again as the Scottish stalwart won through to his fifth Masters final.
Higgins had dispatched rival Ronnie O’Sullivan in a classic Quarter-Final 24 hours earlier, but he dug deep to grind out victory in a match which saw both players average over 27 seconds per shot.
“I personally think Semi-Finals are the worst game, you are close to being in a showpiece and David did not play great,” Higgins told BBC Sport.
“I’m delighted to get through. I knew it was going to be a hard game just to get through to the final and I can get better.
“Yan is a brilliant player and he has an old head on young shoulders but we all know that.
“He is starting to come through now and he believes he can win compared to previous years.”
A high quality start saw Gilbert go ahead with a break of 80 before Higgins levelled with a vintage break of 106.
Gilbert regained the lead with a fine 86 break but only for Higgins to reel off three in a row with breaks of 66, 107 and 57 to move 4-2 ahead.
Gilbert claimed the seventh frame to stay in touch, and after Higgins looked set to make it 5-3 but missed frame-ball pink, the former Crucible semi-finalist potted the two remaining colours to steal the frame and draw level.
Higgins, though, hit back with a break of 56 before pulling himself over the line in frame ten to reach his first Masters final since 2006.
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Masters Snooker 2021 Results
Saturday January 16
Yan Bingtao 6-5 Stuart Bingham
John Higgins 6-4 David Gilbert