Mark Williams was thankful for the support of the Ally Pally crowd after an entertaining 6-5 victory over John Higgins in the Masters on Thursday.
The Welshman reached the semi-finals of the prestigious invitational for the first time since 2010 amid a spine-tingling atmosphere inside the packed Alexandra Palace in London.
There had been plenty of excitement ahead of the showdown between the pair of 46 year-olds who have been rivals on the professional circuit for the last three decades.
The action on the table did not disappoint with the duo exchanging three tons, before British Open champion Williams compiled a magnificent 91 break in the final-frame decider to clinch it.
The energy generated from the sell-out crowd inside the Ally Pally was reminiscent of the final session of the 2011 World Championship final when Higgins faced Judd Trump at the Crucible Theatre to the backdrop of rousing scenes.
“It’s the best reception I ever had in 30 years as a professional,” an emotional Mark Williams told the World Snooker Tour in his post-match interview.
“I’ve had some good atmospheres, but that was electric. They must have been applauding for what felt like ten minutes before we could even break off.”
“Then coming out for the final frame they were doing it again. Me and John were just having a chat before the last frame and just soaking it all in – it was an unbelievable atmosphere.’
“If you could play in an atmosphere like that everyday it would be unbelievable, but it was just electric all the way through.
“I’ve got nothing but respect for John, he’s not my rival any more and hasn’t been for a few years now. I just love playing him.
“The times when we were youngsters and you think, ‘come on, I want to win,’ it’s not like that any more for me anyway. It’s just a special occasion every time I play him.
“In the fourth frame I done a few good shots to win that. I was coming off the century break, which was fine, but all the way through the fourth frame my legs were shaking and my arms were shaking.
“My heart was pounding and felt like it was going to come out of my chest, and I was like, ‘oh my God, I don’t like this,’ so I went off to see Lee Walker at the interval and he’s gone, ‘welcome to my world,’ and I knew what he meant.”
“I’m very rarely like that ever. If I had to play every match like that I’d never win – it was just awful. He just said to go back in there and try to relax a little bit, and after that it was fine.”
Mark Williams will take on Neil Robertson for a berth in Sunday’s final after the Australian won the last two frames to edge Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-4 in the first Masters quarter-final.
On Friday, the remaining two last-eight ties take place with Judd Trump in action against Kyren Wilson and Mark Selby facing Barry Hawkins.
Live coverage continues on the BBC and Eurosport across Britain and Ireland.
Featured photo credit: WST