John Higgins edges ahead of Yan Bingtao in tight Masters final

John Higgins is taking a 5-3 lead into the second session of the Masters final over underdog Yan Bingtao, with the pair returning at 7pm to complete their race to 10 frames.

The four-time world champion is living up to his tag as pre-match favourite, but it has been an edgy contest so far, with neither man at their best.

The 20-year-old seemed to have settled brilliantly, knocking in a superb long red and making a 66 in the opening frame, but he couldn’t keep that standard up.

The Scot began to find his rhythm and made breaks of 63 and 98 in consecutive frames to take the lead for the first time in the fifth frame, before pinching the next to go 4-2 up.

The Chinese stopped the rot with a 97 of his own, but a 52 from the Wizard put him on his way to grabbing the 5-3 lead.

The race to 10 is a long way from over, but Yan is going to have to improve his scoring and cut out mistakes if he is to beat the two-time former champion.

‘Bingtao’s been as naïve tactically in this session as he has been in the whole tournament,’ Steve Davis told the BBC.

‘If he can come out with a flying start and get his tail up…but he needs to start knocking in the long ones.’

Stephen Hendry added: ‘A 5-3 lead, the thing about that, Yan Bingtao is now chasing, which you don’t want to be at the start of the second session.’

Ronnie O’Sullivan feels the pressure will start to tell on Higgins as he nears the finish line, having lost three World Championship finals on the spin from 2017-19.

‘If he [Higgins] doesn’t play well tonight, I think youth will overcome the fear of winning. John’s got to play well tonight,’ Ronnie told Eurosport.

‘This match is more important for John because he’s lost three World finals, which would have been hard to take and this is a major title.

‘If he was to win this it would give him a bit of belief, but Yan not winning it he’ll just learn from it and eventually win one of these big titles.’

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