Higgins takes surprise lead over Selby in world snooker final

Defending champion Mark Selby shakes hands with four-time winner John Higgins before the start of the Snooker World Championships final. Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

John Higgins seized on a nervy start from Mark Selby to take early charge of the Betfred World Championship final on Sunday.

Heading into the two-day match, Higgins had predicted Selby might one day match Stephen Hendry's record of seven Crucible titles.

But four-time winner Higgins, who at 41 is the oldest finalist since 49-year-old Ray Reardon lost to Alex Higgins in 1982, is determined to prevent the Leicester cueman landing title number three this year.

And he ruthlessly capitalised on an unusually poor start from Selby to snatch a 6-2 lead after the first session in Sheffield.

The best-of-35-frame match in theory allows a player to recover from such deficits, as Dennis Taylor proved when coming back from 8-0 adrift of Steve Davis in their 1985 final.

But records show that no player has come back to win from a first-session deficit as wide as 6-2 to take the title since that famous Taylor fightback.

In his first world final since 2011, when he beat Judd Trump, Higgins showed vintage class with a total clearance of 141 in frame four, just two points shy of his highest ever Crucible break.

Runs of 63 and 95 saw him pull 4-2 ahead of Selby, who should have cut the gap but missed a red when 54-1 ahead in the next frame and a clearance of 58 from his opponent was immaculate.

Such sessions from world No. 1 Selby are rare, and for Higgins it was important he took full advantage, so by edging frame eight it struck a major blow, ahead of the evening resumption.

Higgins and Selby remained four frames apart at the mid-session interval in the evening. Selby remained erratic and lacking in spark, but he made his highest break of the match so far, an 86, and scrapped through frame 12 to trail 8-4 as they headed to the dressing rooms.

Higgins returned to take the first two frames and extend his lead to 10-4 with the final threatening to get away from Selby completely. The defending champion got back to 10-6, before a misplayed blue by Higgins in the final frame of the session swung that frame in Selby's favour as well, closing the evening just three frames back.