Dave Harold, a 41-year-old qualifier from Stoke, caused the shock of the Northern Ireland Trophy so far when he dumped out two-time world champion John Higgins in Belfast today.
Harold’s shock 6-4 victory at this year’s £200,500 tournament at the Waterfront Hall means he will now lock horns with either Ronnie O’Sullivan, the world champion and world number one, or last season’s Crucible runner-up Ali Carter.
Leading 5-1 Harold could have won a lot quicker, but Scot Higgins bravely battled back to 5-4.
However, it was Harold, appearing in his first ranking semi-final for five years, who held his nerve to progress.
The Trent Vale professional last appeared in a ranking final 15 years ago when he won the 1993 Asian Open.
“I played so well to go 5-1 up, I was dictating the match. Then I missed a black (at 30-0) and the whole match swung,” reflected the world number 28.
“He started having the run of the balls, which I had been getting earlier. I was so glad to get over the line, I was desperate in the end.
“When he got me angled (on the last red at 68-33 in the last frame) I thought the gods were against me, but I managed to hit the red, which was a tough shot.
“I didn’t feel any nerves early on but there’s no doubt I did towards the end. I think I was entitled to do so after 14 years.
“I held myself together and that black at 5-1 was the only easy ball I missed.
“I can relax now and enjoy the final. I’d love to play Ronnie as I’ve played him at least 10 times and never beaten him, it’s always been one of my ambitions to beat him so I could kill two birds with one stone tomorrow.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet that I’m in a final. I felt full of confidence coming here but I didn’t expect this.
“I’ve got stronger as the tournament has gone on, and I will have to up my game again tomorrow. There will be a few friends coming to watch me, plus my wife Jane and maybe the kids.”
Winner of 18 ranking titles, Higgins was shocked by his defeat, but paid a glowing tribute to his conqeuror.
“It’s disappointing to lose at the semi-final stage, it would have been great to the start the season with a final,” said the world number five.
“I missed a couple in the first four frames and played a few bad positional shots, but Dave played brilliantly to go 5-1 up.
“Dave deserved to win so good luck to him. Getting the semis of the first event is OK I suppose.”