Semi-final on knife-edge as Judd Trumps dogged Ding

Judd Trump might come a close second in the popularity stakes to Ding Junhui in China but in Sheffield it is a no-contest.

Judd Trump might come a close second in the popularity stakes to Ding Junhui in China but in Sheffield it is a no-contest.

Although Ding lives in the Steel City during the season, it is Trump the Crucible crowds have taken to their hearts in the last fortnight and he was tonight back in the frame for World Championship glory.

He had back-to-back centuries as he fought back from 10-7 behind to go level at 12-12 with Ding.

The 21-year-old from Bristol won a host of new fans - and, as Ding noted, admirers - when he landed the China Open title at the start of April.

Ding said: "He's a nice boy. He's got a lot of girlfriends, many girlfriends in China.

"I don't know if he's more popular than me, you'd have to ask him."

While Ding has plenty of support, notably from Chinese students living in Sheffield, Trump is the player who has brought the thrill factor back to snooker.

Tomorrow marks a fortnight since he knocked out the defending champion Neil Robertson in round one, and wins over Martin Gould and Graeme Dott have followed.

While Mark Williams led fellow Crucible veteran John Higgins 9-7 in the other match, first-time semi-finalists Trump and Ding were a session further on.

The afternoon saw Ding win six out of eight frames to lead 9-7, and when he added the opener with a 64 break this evening - his sixth in a row - the situation for Trump looked bleak.

Ding's match is being watched by a vast television audience in China and he is attempting to keep his mind off the expectations of him at home.

"I think a lot of people would like to watch my first match in the semi-finals but I don't want to think about that, I just want to concentrate on my game," Ding said.

He was not at his best tonight though, and Trump had two breaks of 61 and a 71 to get back to 11-10 before rattling in 102 and 123 to lead again.

Ding made 87 in the closing frame of the session to set up a monumental potential nine frames tomorrow afternoon.

Steve Davis described Higgins as snooker's "Terminator" as the three-time former Crucible king stayed alive in his clash with Williams.

Higgins trailed Williams 9-5 during their second session and was coming under a hail of potting fire from the Welshman.

But Higgins dug in to pinch the next two frames, thriving under intense pressure as he put himself firmly back into contention for a fifth appearance in the world final.

Davis, the six-time world champion, likened the Scot's resilience to that of the movie cyborg killer played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"It reminds me of the Terminator film," said Steve Davis, the six-time champion.

"The only way you're going to knock him out is to have one of those big presses."

Rather than inflict death by hydraulic press, Williams must tomorrow come out and pot Higgins out of the tournament in the first-to-17-frames duel.

Williams led 5-3 after yesterday's first session and looked sure to stretch his lead, only for his opponent to demonstrate impressive resolve.

"Many players would have been swamped by how Williams was playing," former champion John Parrott said on BBC2.

"He will be thinking to himself, 'How did I not win that session 5-3 or 6-2?'"

Williams hit a purple patch during the second session, in which he made two centuries in three frames.

Williams began his hot streak with a break of 115, which ended in frustration for him.

From the early stages he had his eye on the highest break prize of £10,000 but missed the green.

Mark King, who had a 138 in his first-round loss to Graeme Dott, is currently on track to pick up that bonus, but he must have been squirming at home when Williams looked set to make 140.

Williams clearly expected to clear up the colours and swished his cue in disappointment above the table when the green stayed up.

There was another chance to set the top break of the tournament in the next frame for Williams but after eight reds, seven blacks and a blue the break came to an end.

Higgins had a reprieve, runs of 42 and 17 brought him close, and he fired in a long blue to edge ahead before sinking a clinching pink.

Williams responded by rattling in 103, and then pinched a low-scoring 14th frame.

Higgins had to at least split the final two frames with the in-form cueman from Cwm, but the 35-year-old did better than that, taking them both aided by runs of 40 and 42.

They resume tomorrow morning and play to a finish in the evening.

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