Mark Williams stands just one more victory away from winning his first major ranking title in more than six years after he secured his place in the final of the Northern Ireland Open.
The Welshman beat Elliot Slessor 6-2 to book his place in Sunday’s grand final.
Williams, who is a two-times world champion, hasn’t won a major ranking title since lifting the German Masters title in 2011 – but victory on Sunday will end that long run without adding to the trophy cabinet.
Williams will need to win ten frames on Sunday to become the second player to lift the Alex Higgins Trophy – following Mark King’s memorable achievement twelve months ago – as well as the £70,000 jackpot..
The world number 16 was in cruise control throughout while Slessor – who beat Ronnie O’Sullivan earlier this week – appeared to struggle in what was his biggest match of his career so far.
A break of 127 saw Williams take a 2-0 lead before Slessor – playing in his first ever ranking semi-final – won the third frame with a run of 70. Williams restored his two-frame lead in frame four before Slessor once again reduced his arrears to a single frame by having the better of the fifth frame.
But breaks of 68 and 54 helped Williams to glory as he recorded a comfortable 6-2 win and a place in a major ranking final once again. The 42-year-old last reached a major final earlier this year in the China Open where he narrowly lost out to world number one Mark Selby 10-8.
The last time Williams – a winner of 18 major ranking titles – lifted ranking silverware in the UK was 14 years ago when he won the then named LG Cup – this came just months after he won the World Championship for the second time.