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Heroic John Higgins stuns Ronnie O’Sullivan to reach English Open final

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O’Sullivan was narrowly beaten by Higgins in Milton Keynes

John Higgins will play Neil Robertson in the English Open showpiece after recovering from 5-3 down to stun Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-5 in a thrilling semi-final on Saturday.

In what was dubbed the ‘El Clasico of snooker’, the two legends served up a mouth-watering contest at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.

Although Higgins trailed 5-3, he dug deep by winning the last three frames to advance to the 53rd ranking event final of his career.

Last month’s Northern Ireland Open runner-up has also reached back-to-back ranking event finals for the first time since the 2009-10 season, when he did so at the UK Championship and Welsh Open.

O’Sullivan was seeking a seventh victory from nine Home Nations semi-final appearances, and made the ideal start with a run of 75 drawing first blood.

The Rocket had the first chance of the second frame, but a mistake was ruthlessly punished by a 104 clearance from Higgins, who dominated the next with contributions of 37 and 54.

O’Sullivan replied with 50 to level at the interval, while he punished untimely errors from his opponent – including the inadvertent potting of a red while splitting the pack from the blue – with breaks of 69 and 108 opening up a 4-2 lead.

The one-visit snooker continued; Higgins responding with 76 following a loose safety by the six-time World champion, who hit back by moving to the brink of victory with 103.

The four-time Crucible king stayed alive with 63, before a trademark gritty 26 clearance to the pink forced a decider after O’Sullivan had missed a tricky final red.

O’Sullivan had prevailed in seven of the 13 previous contests with Higgins that had gone to a deciding frame, and he appeared to hold the upper hand after laying a tight snooker on the green at 56-41 behind.

However, the Wizard subsequently fluked a snooker in return and after the Rocket could not get it safe, he completed a remarkable turnaround on the brown.

For the first time since the 2013 Wuxi Classic, Higgins will lock horns with Robertson in a ranking event final after the Thunder recovered from 4-2 down to defeat Mark King 6-4.

Although King took the opening frame following a fluke on the penultimate red, the Australian controlled the next two to turn the contest around.

His opponent was appearing in his first ranking event semi-final since the 2018 European Masters – and first in the Home Nations since triumphing at the 2016 Northern Ireland Open.

The world number 54, who dethroned reigning champion Judd Trump in the quarter-finals, levelled with a run of 44 before taking two scrappy frames on the colours to move 4-2 in front.

Robertson had yet to truly click into gear as he aimed to maintain his 100 per cent record in Home Nations semi-finals.

The world number four responded with 111 and levelled at 4-4 after King wasted a chance to clear when missing a blue off its spot.

It was one-way traffic from there; the 20-time ranking event winner sealing his spot in a 33rd such final after brilliant breaks of 101 and 84.