Judd Trump had John Higgins running scared tonight as he raced ahead in the Betfred.com World Championship final.
Trump’s exuberance versus the stoicism of Higgins was proving an enthralling battle, but it was the 21-year-old sensation from Bristol who was in charge at 10-7 in front as Scotland’s three-time champion largely fed on scraps.
Coming into the match, Trump had said: “I’m not going to beat him at his own game. I’m not going to ’out-safety’ him.
“I’ve got to go out there and keep my potting like I have been and just play my own game and not get dragged into trying to beat him at safety.”
He kept to his word, attacking everything, and while he occasionally missed, Trump was mostly clinical and always entertaining. Some of his long pots were jaw-dropping.
Higgins had sufficient chances to remain just about within touching distance, and Trump’s only regret may be that he did not build up a bigger lead. However at 7-7, a scoreline which hardly seemed to reflect the flow of the match, Trump would have happily settled for taking the final three frames.
Adding to Higgins’ frustrations, he was fined £250 for conceding the 16th frame with enough points left on the table to force a respotted black.
The pair had been locked level at 4-4 at the end of the afternoon session, the highlight of which was provided by Trump’s 102 break in the sixth frame.
Trump, who took a leisurely dinner with friends between sessions at a nearby restaurant, then dropped 5-4 behind after the opening frame of the evening session when Higgins had a break of 60.
But he had breaks of 55 and 58 to lead 6-5 and turned on the style in frame 12, playing a run of exhibition shots on his way to a break of 103 and a two-frame lead, finishing with an immense black played at high speed from close to the top cushion to the green pocket.
Higgins came back to 7-6, and levelled after a scrappy frame.
Trump had a 49 break to lead 49-18 at 7-7, and although he broke down there, a further run of 28 made the frame safe.
A touch of controversy came when Higgins conceded when 51 behind with 51 remaining on the table.
That is against the usual etiquette, costing him money, and it suited Trump as he gained a two-frame lead.
Higgins led 36-0 in the final frame of the evening but missed a black and Trump replied with 45 before running stray of position. He soon had another chance though, and was at his punishing best, to the delight of the crowd.
Trump had emerged to a hero’s welcome both in the afternoon and evening, a deafening roar befitting his status as snooker’s new superstar.
His first-round win over last year’s champion Neil Robertson had been a stunning opening performance, but even then few other than the hyper-confident Trump himself expected to see him reach the final.
Yet victories over Martin Gould, 2006 champion Graeme Dott and reigning Masters champion Ding Junhui followed for the youngster from Bristol, earning him a shot at glory.
It is only seven weeks since Trump won a qualifying-round match against David Gilbert to reach the Crucible, and four weeks since he won his maiden ranking title at the China Open.
Higgins headed into the final on the back of an uncomfortable ending to his semi-final win over Mark Williams.
A spectator stood up in the 28th frame and, before being ejected, shouted at Higgins: “How did you swallow that £300,000 John? We know what you did. You’re a disgrace to snooker.”
The disgruntled fan was referring to the story which broke on the eve of the 2010 final, when Higgins and his then manager Pat Mooney were caught up in a newspaper sting after a meeting with reporters posing at businessmen in Ukraine.
Higgins was banned for six months after admitting to breaching rules around betting, but more serious charges of agreeing to throw frames for money were dropped. Higgins firmly denied wrongdoing.
Williams said: “There’s always going to be people like that about.
“It probably won’t be the last time someone does something like that.
“Obviously it’s going to be very tough for him. He doesn’t want to get reminded of it, especially when he’s down on a shot.
“But it’s just something he’s got to take on the chin.
“He hasn’t got any choice. I told him, ’There’s nothing you can do about it’.”