John Higgins became the latest player through to the Winners’ Group as the Championship League resumed this week in Leicester.
After losing three of his opening five round-robin fixtures, Higgins only just squeezed into the knockout phase with a last-gasp 3-2 defeat of Robert Milkins.
The 47 year-old subsequently saw off table-topper Xiao Guodong in the semi-finals with a 3-0 scoreline that boasted breaks of 135, 83, and 75.
Higgins, a three-time former Championship League winner, then overcame Matthew Selt in the final to continue his progress in the invitational competition.
The Wizard of Wishaw is the reigning Championship League champion and also previously won the tournament in successive years in 2017 and 2018.
The Scot joins Jack Lisowski, Stuart Bingham, Kyren Wilson, and Judd Trump in the Winners’ Group that will determine the overall champion in March.
With sports betting odds of around 5/1 at Betway, Higgins is now the second-favourite to land the title behind fellow former three-time winner Trump.
It has been a disappointing 2022/23 snooker season so far Higgins, who has failed to feature at the business end of most events on the calendar.
The current world number six will head to next week’s Welsh Open in search of confidence with his one-year ranking languishing all the way down at number 61.
Only a victory in Llandudno would see him rise into the top 16 on that list in time to gain an invitation to the upcoming Players Championship.
For Selt, who had beaten Neil Robertson 3-2 in a tight semi-final fixture, it was the fourth time he’d suffered a loss in the knockout stages of a Championship League group this season, and the third in a final.
Selt previously lost to Lisowski in the last match of Group 1 and to Wilson in the final of Group 3.
The Englishman will have another crack at advancing in Group 6 on Thursday and Friday alongside Robertson, Xiao, and Milkins – who managed to hold onto fifth place and stay alive in the tournament.
They will be joined at the Morningside Arena by newcomers Anthony McGill, Joe Perry, and Zhou Yuelong.
David Gilbert and Noppon Saengkham exit the tournament, meanwhile, after finishing in the bottom two spots of Group 5.
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There are two different versions of the Championship League currently on the snooker calendar.
The ranking event edition was staged back in the summer, with Luca Brecel triumphing on that occasion.
This ongoing Championship League, which is open only to invited players, is the original having first taken place 15 years ago.
In addition to prize money on offer for advancing in the respective groups, other cash bonuses are available for frames won and by compiling the highest break.
Live coverage of the ongoing event is available on the Championship League Snooker Facebook page.
An event tailored for the betting market, many online bookies websites such as Betway will also stream live coverage from the Morningside Arena in Leicester.
Featured photo credit: WST