John Higgins won Group 7 of the Championship League to earn the last spot in this week’s Winners’ Group, where the overall winner of the annual invitational event will be determined.
Higgins, the defending champion, left it until the last possible opportunity to qualify for the series conclusion but made the most of his one chance by denying Judd Trump 3-2 in the Group 7 final at the Ricoh Arena.
Trump had dominated the round-robin phase with five victories from his six encounters and the three-time champion subsequently traded 137 breaks in the semi-finals with Ricky Walden before denying his countryman with a 3-1 scoreline.
However, after taking a 2-1 lead in the final with runs of 77 and 89 sandwiching a 105 from Higgins, the Englishman failed to convert a break of 52 in the fourth frame and his Scottish opponent forced the decider, which he duly won.
It marks only the fourth time since the Championship League’s inception in 2008 that Trump has failed to reach the final stages.
Higgins, who emerged from the round-robin with four wins before beating Jimmy Robertson in the last four, joins Zhou Yuelong, Mark Selby, Kyren Wilson, Ali Carter, Mark Williams, and Martin Gould in the Winners’ Group.
It follows the same format as usual with the seven competitors facing each other once in the round-robin and the top four following that process advancing to the semi-finals.
All matches remain the sprint best of five frames and, as well as the trophy, the top prize of £10,000, and all the bonuses awarded for frames won during the tournament, the champion will also receive an invitation to compete in the lucrative Champion of Champions in Coventry later in the year.