John Higgins kept his focus after being heckled by a Crucible spectator to set up a final showdown with Judd Trump at the Betfred.com World Championship.
The 35-year-old Scot was labelled “a disgrace to snooker” by an angry spectator, who was immediately ejected, during his last-four clash with Welshman Mark Williams but held his nerve to win the match 17-14.
Higgins came from behind to take the final frame after Williams had a break of 64.
The spectator interjected in the 28th frame, and was apparently 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 the more serious charges of agreeing to throw frames for money were dropped. Higgins has always denied wrongdoing and seemed briefly rattled by the incident tonight but held himself together to compile a break of 123 which gave him a 15-13 lead at the mid-session interval.
Earlier, 21-year-old qualifier Trump clinched a 17-15 victory over China’s Ding Junhui to become the youngest finalist in Sheffield since Stephen Hendry in 1990.
Higgins said in his press conference that the heckling episode had left him briefly shaken.
“I was, but I managed to get myself together again,” he said.
“Full credit to Mark. When we were walking out he came up to me and said, ’I hope that doesn’t put you off. Forget about it’.”
Higgins, who won the UK Championship in December, his first major tournament back after suspension, said: “It’s been a long year.
“It would be incredible to try to win it.”
Discussing Trump, Higgins said: “He just pots and pots and pots.
“He’s great for the game. I don’t know what it is with (World Snooker chairman) Barry Hearn.
“He seems to have the Midas touch. Judd is the new wonderboy the sport needs.
“He’s a great lad with a great family behind him.”
The pressure of the situation looked to be affecting both Higgins and Williams as their match neared its climax. Higgins eventually clinched his win after Williams kept missing.
Higgins said: “It was very nervy. All I was trying to do was stay with Mark because he was playing some unbelievable stuff. All my thoughts were to take it to the final session, still in touch.
“I knew I would start missing a few and I was hoping Mark would as well.”
The three-time former champion pinpointed the second session, which he and Williams shared despite the Welshman making most of the running, as key to the eventual outcome.
“You can probably look and say that was a turning point of the match,” Higgins said.
“On some other days he would have come out leading 10-6 or 11-5 so I had a great night’s sleep being just 9-7 behind.”