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John Higgins v Yan Bingtao live stream | Northern Ireland Open 2021 preview

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Mark Allen v Ricky Walden live stream | Northern Ireland Open 2021 preview

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Heroic John Higgins sets up Mark Allen showdown in Northern Ireland Open final

Higgins and Yan go head to head once more in Bolton (Nigel French/PA Archive/PA Images)

John Higgins will be aiming to avenge his Masters final defeat by Yan Bingtao when they clash in the last four of the Northern Ireland Open on Saturday.

The Chinese ace claimed his first major title at snooker’s most prestigious invitational event in January after prevailing a 10-8 winner over the four-time World champion in the Milton Keynes showpiece.

That gave Yan his third consecutive victory over Higgins, an impressive streak he will be looking to extend at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.

As a 17-year-old, the former World Cup winner became the youngest ranking event finalist here four years ago, when he narrowly lost 9-8 to Mark Williams.

He quietly went about his business in the early rounds this year before knocking out Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last 16, and whitewashing Mitchell Mann 5-0 in the quarter-finals on Friday.

Yan will now appear in his eighth ranking event semi-final; a mere 68 shy of Higgins’ total.

Like his opponent, this is the Scotsman’s second appearance in the last four of this event, having also made it this far in 2019.

The Wizard hit three centuries in his 4-2 victory over Luca Brecel earlier in the week, before producing an inspired turnaround from 3-0 down to stun Williams 4-3 in the last 16.

Higgins also recovered from 2-0 down to see off an in-form David Gilbert in the quarter-finals, but later expressed concerns regarding the condition of his tip.

Nevertheless, the 46-year-old is now just two victories away from becoming only the fifth multiple winner of Home Nations titles since the establishment of the series, after Judd Trump, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Stuart Bingham.

Play gets underway at 7pm BST on Saturday with the match contested over the best of 11 frames at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.

The winner will play either Mark Allen or Ricky Walden in Sunday’s final.