Higgins stays in touch after Williams' flying start

Mark Williams made a flying start to the World Snooker Championship final but could not shake off John Higgins on day one of the Crucible showpiece, leading 10-7 at the close of play.

The encounter between two members of snooker's 'Class of '92' was expected to be a close battle, but Williams raced into a surprise 4-0 lead as Higgins struggled to find his stride.

A century break after the interval helped the four-time winner settle, and getting to the end of the session at only two frames down represented a minor victory considering how slowly he had come out of the blocks.

The Scot continued to keep his fellow veteran in his sights when the players returned for nine more frames in the evening, eventually pulling level at 7-7.

However, a late flurry from Williams earned him a three-frame lead heading into day two, leaving Higgins - runner-up last year after throwing away a six-frame advantage over Mark Selby - to continue giving chase.

Williams' strong start came despite two careless misses in the second frame, after which he was spotted scoffing chocolates sourced from a member of the audience.

Snack craving sufficiently satisfied, Williams ended the third with a remarkable eyes-shut shot on the final pink as Higgins' frustration grew.

The 'Wizard of Wishaw' had been far from his best but produced a 55 break in the fourth, only for a kick to interrupt his momentum and a wayward cue ball to ultimately give Williams the frame-winning chance.

Higgins re-emerged from the mid-session interval with the first century break of the match - a 119 - to finally get on the board, but Williams responded with a 95 to re-establish his four-frame lead.

Victory in the two remaining frames of the afternoon session limited the damage for Higgins and, after Williams won the first frame of the evening, he closed in further with breaks of 51 and 127.

Williams took the next but there was a growing sense that the momentum was with Higgins as the effects of a late-night semi-final finish perhaps took their toll on the Welshman.

Higgins pulled level with his third century but Williams' second wind saw him add a ton of his own, while a clearance in the penultimate frame guaranteed the overnight lead.

An ill-judged bid by Higgins to develop the final red proved costly in an important final frame of the night, as Williams cleared the remaining balls to put daylight between the two players.

 

John Higgins 7-10 Mark Williams: 23-75, 15-65, 35-72, 60-70, 120-4, 0-133, 98-0, 82-21, 46-81, 75-31, 127-8, 12-76, 85-9, 123-15, 0-123, 35-64, 43-80

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