Jimmy White roared into his first major final in four years with a thrilling 6-4 victory over local hero Tony Drago at the European Open in Malta tonight.
White looked set to coast through to a best-of-17-frames showdown with Glasgow’s Stephen Maguire when he built a 5-1 lead before Drago, the Maltese number one, fired back into contention to trail only 5-4.
Drago won the seventh frame with a run of 84, claimed the next through an effort of 44 and fashioned a break of 109 in just four minutes to close to within a single frame.
But the 41-year-old Whirlwind halted the comeback in its tracks by clinching the 10th with a break of 86 to secure a place in his first final since he was beaten 9-6 by Peter Ebdon in the 2000 British Open.
White said afterwards: “I’m just delighted to have won.
“Playing Tony here, I got a taste of what players have against me at the Masters when the crowd are all on my side but they were fair and I enjoyed every minute of it.
“At 5-1 up I just played a couple of slack shots and he got stronger and stronger, but I made a good break at the end to finish it.”
White’s last ranking event title was back in 1992 when he beat John Parrott to win the UK Championship.
He has suffered more than his fair share of heartache since, including a narrow 18-17 defeat to Stephen Hendry in the 1994 Embassy World Championship, the last of six heartbreaking Crucible final defeats.
But recently White has been rejuvenated, reaching the semi-finals of the UK Championship in November and last month’s Wembley Masters.
He added: “I’ve been working hard and I’ll just keep pumping away.
“I feel that my game is there and there’s no reason why I can’t win it.”
Maguire reached the final with a long drawn out 6-4 victory over world number five Stephen Lee.