Selby starts final fightback

Mark Selby launched a stunning comeback with a third session whitewash to trail John Higgins 12-10 and revive hopes of winning his first 888.com World Championship title at the Crucible Theatre.

Mark Selby launched a stunning comeback with a third session whitewash to trail John Higgins 12-10 and revive hopes of winning his first 888.com World Championship title at the Crucible Theatre.

Selby looked as if he faced mission impossible when he trailed 12-4 overnight in the best of 35 encounter – a deficit from which no-one has recovered to win in the history of the tournament.

But qualifier Selby was in inspired form, winning all six frames of a curtailed session with some deadly potting to leave Higgins shell-shocked.

An indication of just how much Higgins was out of touch was the size of his highest break of the afternoon – only 36.

Selby needed to make early inroads into Higgins’ lead to have any chance of putting the 1998 champion under pressure – and he made an encouraging start.

A run of 34 to the final yellow secured the opening frame and then the 23-year-old made an impressive 109 break in the next to reduce the gap to 12-6.

It was his 12th century of the tournament – more than anyone else – and took the overall tally for the fortnight to 67, only one off the record total set in 2002.

Selby seemed in a relaxed frame of mind and was seen joking and laughing with members of the audience which included a sizeable following from his native Leicester.

His revival continued in the next frame with a decisive run of 65 and he looked a completely different player to the one who appeared drained on Sunday after final frame wins over Ali Carter and Shaun Murphy.

He was first amongst the balls in the last frame before the interval and compiled 62 before missing a red into the right middle pocket.

But a superb long red was enough to ensure Higgins would require snookers.

Frame 21 was a lengthy affair with plenty of safety play before a run of 42 from Selby led to Higgins conceding when needing snookers.

Another half century from Selby gave him the upper hand in what was to be the final frame of the session and, although Higgins clawed his way back into contention, a superb final blue from his opponent proved decisive.

The players were then taken off to allow them time to recover before what could be a marathon final session with a possible 13 frames still to play.

It was in contrast to the opening day when Higgins had produced top notch matchplay snooker and was in total command after winning four frames in a row.

The biggest overnight deficit overturned to lift the title is 10-6 – by Mark Williams (2000) and Murphy (2005) – both at the expense of Matthew Stevens.

The last time a player was 12-4 down going into the second day was Jimmy White in 1993 when he eventually lost 18-5 to Stephen Hendry.

That match finished with a session to spare but Selby’s spirited response ensured a repeat was avoided.

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