World Championship 2017
Venue: The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 15 April – 1 May
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC Red Button, Connected TVs, online and app.

Four-time champion John Higgins has built a 5-3 lead over Barry Hawkins in their World Championship semi-final.

World number six Higgins punished a sloppy start by England’s Hawkins, 38, making three breaks of 50-plus on his way to a 4-0 mid-session lead.

Hawkins, in his fourth Crucible semi-final in five years, rattled in breaks of 62 and 71 to get back to 4-2.

Scot Higgins, 41, won the seventh frame but missed a blue in the eighth and Hawkins capitalised with a 74 break.

Hawkins had said before the tie that if he didn’t raise his game after an unconvincing quarter-final victory over Stephen Maguire, he would get his bum “smacked” by Higgins.

But that is exactly what happened in a miserable first mini-session.

The world number seven did not manage a break of more than 20 as he slipped 3-0 behind against the 28-time ranking event winner.

Higgins, playing in the semi-finals for the first time since his last Crucible success in 2011, missed a frame ball in the fourth and the Kent-based Londoner appeared to be poised to take full advantage only to run out of position and then miss a tricky pink while using the rest.

But Higgins was off target with several easy balls in the next two frames and Hawkins was able to cut the gap.

Higgins took a scrappy seventh frame and seemed set to lead by four overnight only to let in his grateful opponent.

Hawkins’ fourth 50-plus break of the match ensured only a two-frame deficit and was greeted with a relieved puff of the cheeks as he walked off.

The first-to-17 tie resumes on Friday afternoon.

Analysis

John Parrott, 1991 world champion:

Barry was scrapping all through the first session and he ended up in an awkward position on things.

To lose the fourth frame was a big kick in the teeth. He had done all the hard work and the break was brilliant until he missed the pink.

But having Terry Griffiths in his corner is a huge help to Barry. He has been there and done it and knows all about the emotions you go through.

To come back from 4-0 down will be a big relief and, looking at John sitting in the chair, he looked a little bit tired around the eyes.

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