Neil Robertson was seemingly in complete control against Stuart Bingham in the first semi-final of the UK Championship on Friday before a late assault almost ended the Australian’s run in the tournament.
In the early exchanges, the world no.1 was able to get the better of his English opponent in a lot of tight frames.
Indeed, after ten frames Robertson led 7-3 but there was only about 40 between them in total points scored.
When the Wuxi Classic champion won the next with a break of 81 to go to within one of victory, all seemed lost for Bingham.
However, the Champion of Champions runner-up, who avenged his defeat to Ronnie O’Sullivan in Coventry in the previous round here in York, didn’t give up and began to claw his way back into contention.
An 85 made it 8-4 and at least ensured that Robertson would have to sit through another mid-session interval while runs of 56 and 86 got the 38 year-old back to within just two.
Robertson had a chance in the next but Bingham steeled himself for a fourth in a row and a 107, supporting his 124 century earlier in the contest, unbelievably tied the game up and forced a decider.
From there, one would have perhaps labeled Bingham as the favourite having significantly rattled Robertson.
However, a typically nervy start to the final frame preceded a chance for Robertson to get some points on the board and an important 59 proved to be the ultimate difference.
Bingham gallantly fought on, even after he needed snookers, but Melbourne’s Robertson had just about prevailed in what was a more dramatic conclusion than he would have been expecting.
It is fortunate for Robertson that he has Saturday off because he will need time to recover mentally from such a draining encounter.
The fact that he let a considerable lead like that slip will be of concern to the 31 year-old but, at the same time, he was able to hold himself together well in the end to finally book his place in Sunday’s final.
There, he’ll meet either defending champion Mark Selby or Chester’s Ricky Walden, who is bidding for a maiden appearance in one of the traditional major finals.
I said at the quarter-final stage that I was tipping Robertson to win the tournament in a final clash with Leicester’s Selby, and I’ll stick with that.
Robertson hasn’t really been playing his A-game this week but his resolute temperament and will to win is clear for all to see.
Should he emerge victorious he will join an elite group of players who have won the World Championship, UKs and the Masters.
Selby and Walden will have something to say about that of course.
The ‘Jester’ is back in form after a somewhat prolonged spell on the sidelines as a spectator while Walden is making his second semi-final appearance in York in three years, and his second in a major in 2013 following his run to the last four at the Crucible in May.
Saturday’s encounter has the makings of going the distance as well but, with his vast experience, Selby will obviously be the initial favourite.