Controversy at Crucible as Selby closes in on title

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"The final break there to win the match was the calmest I have felt". Leading 62-4 and urgently needing to get frames on the board, he missed to the right corner, sucking on his thumb afterwards as he stepped back in disbelief. "He'd outplayed me most of the day, but today I came back a lot more fresh and played a lot better". I'd hit the wall; I had nothing left.

"I know how hard Barry is to beat", said Higgins.

"I am pleased, I did not give up", Hawkins said.

Referee Jan Verhaas called a foul, before briefly going back on his decision after seeking advice from Steve Davis and John Parrott in the BBC studio inside the theatre.

"I could have swore the black moved a little bit but then Jan said it didn't", said Selby.

Selby: Do you want to have a look, John? "You have to put it out of your mind". But congratulations to John. "He looks as though he could be the challenger to Stephen Hendry's seven world titles".

"He's granite, isn't he?"

Ding said after the match: "If I hadn't missed that blue it would definitely have gone to a final frame". That might not be the difference but it was a big, big frame, and Mark did what he always does and cleared up under pressure. I just came up short to a great champion. "That was the big, big ball and I missed it. To have three world titles is unbelievable and to be one of only four players to defend it is something I could only dream of".

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"This year he knew what to expect on the one table set up and I thought he played fantastic".

"He's just granite, he really is".

It came wholly against the run of play, therefore, when Selby fired consecutive breaks of 81 and 121 and then won the last frame of the day convincingly too. That level of company reflects Selby's status as a modern-day snooker great.

Higgins - a four-time Crucible champion - came into this match as the underdog against last year's victor, but a fourth-frame break of 141 sparked a period of control that put daylight between the two players.

Higgins started the first frame well but Selby took his chance after his opponent's break of 34, notching in a 76 to get underway.

Selby returned this evening and had to hold off a mini recovery from Higgins, who reduced the gap from 16-12 to 16-15, before getting his hands on the famous trophy - and £375,000 top prize - in Sheffield.

Nevertheless, it was still an impressive start from the 41-year-old Higgins, bidding to become the oldest world champion since snooker great Ray Reardon won the last of his six titles aged 45 in 1978. "I was saying before this event he was my pick to win it".