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Hend' is near for Higgins

Stephen Hendry last night swept to the brink of a stunning victory over John Higgins in the Betfred.com World Championship, as the reigning champion's defence of his Crucible title looked to have run its course.

On a big day for Scotland in Sheffield, seven-time world champion Hendry won seven out of eight frames to storm 12-4 ahead of four-time winner Higgins in their long-awaited first Crucible meeting.

Higgins' game, which took him to glory in the final against Judd Trump last May, looked to have completely deserted him in the second-round contest.

Higgins warned he was playing poorly as the tournament approached, but it was hard to believe the Crucible environment would not bring the best out of the 36-year-old.

And yet he looked hopelessly rusty in the second-round contest, missing most difficult balls and some routine pots too. The same had applied in the first round, when he edged past Liang Wenbo in a deciding frame.

Hendry, 43, would certainly not have expected to be gifted so many openings, and to win his frames he often needed several.

He finished off in style, though, with a polished break of 83, and needs just one more frame today to reach the quarter-finals.


Stephen Maguire stood poised to clinch an all-Scottish showdown in the quarter-finals. The 31-year-old Glaswegian won six of eight frames in his second session against Joe Perry to pull 11-5 clear last night, and he returns today needing just another two to reach the last eight.

Assuming Maguire completes the finishing touches of a thus far impressive job, he will more than likely face Hendry in the next round.