Selby late show leaves Crucible final in the balance

A potentially disastrous day at the office ended with Mark Selby trailing John Higgins by just three frames in the World Snooker final.

Mark Selby produced a determined finish to emerge from day one of the World Snooker Championship final trailing John Higgins by just three frames at 10-7.

Higgins – a four-time Crucible champion – came into this match as the underdog against last year's winner, but a fourth-frame break of 141 sparked a period of control that put daylight between the two players.

The break matched the highest in the history of the world final and sent Higgins on a run of five frame victories without reply, opening up a 6-2 lead.

Selby appeared out of sorts for the most part, struggling to keep up with Higgins and growing increasingly frustrated at his own performance.

However, having slipped to 10-4, Selby strung together a run of three frame wins to close out the day, putting him firmly in contention to defend his title on Monday.

There was nothing out of the ordinary about Selby's start. A poor positional shot from Higgins opened the door for the defending champion to pounce for the opener and, after losing a scrappy second frame, he took the third with breaks of 62 and 58 to move 2-1 in front.

However, the effects of a draining semi-final against Ding Junhui – a repeat of last year's final – appeared to be taking their toll on Selby, as Higgins first drew level and then soared clear.

Higgins - winner when these players met in the 2007 decider - benefited from an early finish in his last-four match against Barry Hawkins, needing only one frame of the final session to wrap up the win on Saturday, and his 141 break was completed with the composure of a man who has won all but one of his five final appearances in Sheffield.

Selby did have chances to stem the flow over the course of the next four frames but those opportunities were uncharacteristically squandered, sending him into the second session 6-2 down.

A break of 86 in the ninth gave Selby some much-needed respite before the errors crept back in – an undercooked roll up to the green in frame 11 a particularly costly example.

Higgins missed a pink off its spot in the 12th and Selby grasped the lifeline for 8-4, but the Scot's win in the next guaranteed him the overnight lead, and a 76 break in the 14th sent him six clear.

If Selby was on the lookout for good omens to inspire him, he could have done worse than to think back to 2014 when he trailed Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-7 at the end of day one before going on to win the title for the first time.

And the two-time champion somehow picked himself up off the mat to clinch the remaining three frames, including a break of 121 in the 16th, limiting the damage on what threatened to be a disastrous day at the office.

 

Mark Selby v John Higgins: 76-34, 7-50, 121-8, 0-141, 40-99, 1-126, 54-59, 33-68, 86-0, 8-60, 44-74, 69-22, 1-68, 0-76, 81-9, 121-12, 96-17

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