• The Masters

Defending champion Selby edges Higgins in thriller

ESPN staff
January 16, 2014
Mark Selby booked his place in the Masters last four after a superb battle with John Higgins © PA Photos

Defending Masters champion Mark Selby survived arguably the match of the tournament so far after coming through a thrilling 6-5 victory in his quarter-final with John Higgins at Alexandra Palace.

Higgins started with a 58 break to put him in firm control of the opening frame, which he soon wrapped up following an error from Selby.

A visit of 42 was enough for Selby to level in a scrappy second frame, but supreme safety play from both players ensured an edgy start to frame three. Selby took the lead with a solid break of 70 before ensuring a 3-1 lead at the mid-session interval with an impressive 98.

However, Higgins responded after the break and moved within one - a 43 break was enough to see him over the line in the fifth frame.

Another 69 helped Higgins level the tie at three frames apiece, but Selby looked to respond in the seventh with a 56 break.

That went to the black, with Selby needing the final seven points to force a re-spot. However, the defending champion made a rare error and allowed his opponent to sink the final ball for the frame and a 4-3 lead.

Higgins made it four consecutive frames to move within one of a place in the last four as Selby struggled with snookers, but breaks of 48 and 61 helped the champion close the gap to 5-4.

The 10th frame tested both players' nerves; just two points in it, Higgins potted the yellow only to suffer a huge kick on the green and let his opponent back in. Selby seemed to have missed his chance when over-cutting the same ball, but Higgins again slipped up on a routine brown.

This time there was no mistake from recent UK Championship finalist Selby as he wrapped up the frame with a brilliant brown, blue and pink to send the match into a decider.

Higgins failed to get past a break of 22 but stretched his lead to 57 after Selby misjudged a safety shot and ran into the pink by mistake. However, Higgins suffered another huge kick off a red which allowed Selby a return to the table.

A superb snooker behind the green bought Selby valuable points and a chance of clawing back the deficit as Higgins resorted to hit-and-hope. He finally got out of the snooker only to leave Selby a glorious chance to clean up.

However, an unlucky kiss off two reds left Selby trailing his opponent by 19 points, so he opted for another snooker behind the yellow; this time, Higgins was successful at the first attempt.

This was a match which would be settled on the slightest of mistakes and, sure enough, it came following a tense exchange of safety play. Higgins, with a lead of seven, misjudged the green and left it over the pocket. Selby potted and followed with the brown to level the scores, before cross-doubling the blue into the middle.

The pink followed and Higgins stood up to shake Selby's hand and congratulate last year's champion on his place in the semi-final.

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