Judd Trump and Neil Robertson were locked in a Titanic battle for a place in the final of the williamhill.com UK Championship last night.
Their semi-final clash at the York Barbican lived up to its billing as a meeting between two of the game’s best potters.
With both players trading frames, like boxers would punches, the match was locked at 7-7 and seemed destined for a late-night Friday finish.
The left-handers had started the day by sharing the opening eight frames yesterday afternoon, finishing at 4-4, in their best-of-17 tussle.
For the first time in the tournament the Barbican Centre was at a one-table setting, and it looked as though Robertson and Trump were set to treat the evening audience to a tight finish.
It was a re-match of their World Championship first-round clash, which Trump won 10-8 on the opening day at the Crucible in April to end Robertson’s reign and set himself up for a shock run to the final, where he lost narrowly to John Higgins.
Trump led 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 as he looked for a repeat of that famous success in Sheffield but had to settle for level terms.
Bristol potter Trump, 22, and 29-year-old Australian Robertson were playing for a place in tomorrow’s final against either England’s Ricky Walden or Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen, the player whose caustic criticism of World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn earlier in the tournament has overshadowed much of the on-table action.
Trump began purposefully in the afternoon, pinching the opening frame from Robertson on the colours after his opponent had come from 51-0 behind to lead. An 84 break then established an early two-frame cushion for the crowd favourite.
It had been a potting contest to that point, but Robertson dropped Trump in trouble in the third frame, leaving the white behind the blue by the balk cushion and drawing six fouls in succession.
Robertson decorated the handy lead that string of misses gave him with a break of 33, and although Trump briefly threatened to steal the frame it soon belonged to the Australian, who then raced through the last before the mid-session interval with runs of 49 and 67 to draw level.
Trump sneaked in front again, before 105 from Robertson brought the match level.
A fluent run of 69 from Trump saw him regain the lead, but Robertson finished the session strongly with a breezy 77.
The pair traded off frames at the start of the evening session too. Trump was forced to clear the colours to go 5-4, but Robertson snatched a dramatic 10th frame. He overcut the blue with just three colours remaining, but snookered Trump behind the pink. That slice of luck was vital as the Australian cleared up and punched the air, roaring ‘come on’ in a rare emotional outburst.
Neither player was showing a ruthless streak in winning the frame in one visit, and frame 11 followed suit. Robertson stalled on 42, but gave Trump a chance and he took advantage to edge back in front.
Trump finished with a 73 break, the highest of the session so far, to lead 7-5 and bring a little daylight between the two rivals.
But there was little chance of either player running away with this battle, Robertson returning after the mid-session interval to eke out the next frame.
The tension now was clear to see, frame 14 seeing both players trotting off for a toilet break mid-frame as a safety stalemate finally forced a re-rack. It was a case now of whose nerve would crack first.
Meanwhile, Ali Carter has backtracked somewhat on his apparent intention to retire at the end of the season.
After losing 6-2 to Mark Allen in the second round, Carter wrote on Twitter: “Going to retire at the end of the season! And I can’t wait!
“I’m dead serious, life is too short to do something you don’t enjoy, 25 years is enough! Pastures new....’’
However, the former World Championship finalist later added: “Thanks for all your messages.
“Maybe I should have kept my thoughts to myself! They were obv in the heat of the moment but I also genuinely have some serious thinking to do about my future.”