World Snooker Championship 2012: Higgins beats Liang

By Shamoon HafezBBC Sport
Higgins wins gripping decider

Defending champion John Higgins survived a scare to beat Liang Wenbo 10-9 in the World Championship.

Having fallen 8-6 behind, he won three frames on the trot to go within one of victory but Liang levelled in the 18th.

The Chinese player was looking good for victory but was unable to pocket a double and Higgins took the match.

The four-time champion could face Stephen Hendry in the second round, who earlier in the day made the 10th maximum break at The Crucible Theatre.

It was a superb first day at the 'home of snooker', as Higgins edged through in a deciding frame and Hendry made an opening day maximum break.

Higgins avoided being the eighth champion to get knocked out in the first round after clawing his way to victory in a gripping encounter.

He looked uneasy in his opening session, unable to score heavily against a player he has never lost to and was fortunate to take a 5-4 lead going into the interval.

Having struggled all season for form and going 4-3 behind at one point in the match, he came out and snatched the opening exchange to open up a two frame lead, but the Chinese player was not letting the Scot too far out of his sights and a 45 was sufficient for him to pull back a frame.

Incredibly, Liang had the opportunity of converting the second maximum break of the day when he potted eight reds and eight blacks but broke down after missing an easy ninth red. Then Higgins was on the ropes as the 25-year-old bagged the next frame.

It was not getting any better for the 'Wizard of Wishaw' as Liang eased in a break of 92 to leave Higgins reeling at 8-6 down, but the 36-year-old showed his fighting spirit to respond with a magnificent 133 clearance.

The man from Heilongjiang looked set to clinch the following frame to go within one for victory, but ended up missing a sitter of a yellow and Higgins took full advantage to level up. He took his third frame in a row to go one up at 9-8, with two left to play.

But the topsy-turvy tie took another twist as Liang showed great grit and determination, digging deep to level at 9-9 and forcing a decider.

He had a chance when left in among the balls, but fouled due to a push-shot giving Higgins a chance to prevail, but the four-time champion missed a red to the middle pocket and broke down on 44.

Archive: Hendry stuns Bingham with 147

Under the watchful eye of the auditorium, the Chinese number two attempted a double on the red and failed, as the champion came to the table to secure victory and book his place in the second round.

Earlier in the day, seven-time world champion Hendry knocked in his third maximum at the venue, punching the air and taking the adulation of the joyous crowd on potting the final black.

It was a vintage Hendry performance, making his 27th consecutive Crucible appearance, as he outscored his opponent into near submission, having stroked in two century breaks and a further five 60+ efforts.

He now looks overwhelming favourite to advance into the next round having taken an 8-1 advantage in the first session against Stuart Bingham.