Veterans Mark Williams and John Higgins contesting World Championship final

Ronnie O’Sullivan

Two-time champion Mark Williams opened up a surprise 5-3 lead over four-time victor John Higgins in the final of the World Championship in Sheffield.

A nervy final frame would also go Williams, who will head into the last day with a 10-7 lead in the best of 35 frame final.

Leading the four-time World champions 4-0 at the mid-session interval, Williams looked remarkably calm in establishing a firm lead.

Well, he has been calmness personified during this afternoon's session.

Higgins qualified for his seventh final after a 17-13 win over Kyren Wilson, while Williams edged past Barry Hawkins 17-15 in a late-night thriller.

The Welshman was wobbling but fought back with a break of 118 before claiming the final two frames of the session to lead the race to 18 by three overnight.

"We all pushed each other on to higher levels", said five-time world champion O'Sullivan while commentating on the final for Eurosport.

"We're probably like the Mexican boxers - they grow up fighting each other, they're tough boys". It made us tough. Williams responded with 95 to go 5-1 ahead and already the end of the session looked critical despite so many frames still to be played in this battle of the veterans.

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"I knew Higgins could win this final but I wasn't so sure about Mark Williams but he's shown he can".

Both players are aiming to become the oldest champion since Ray Reardon, who was 45 when he triumphed in 1978, and shared four centuries and eight further breaks of 50 or more.

A century break after the interval helped the four-time victor settle, and getting to the end of the session at only two frames down represented a minor victory considering how slowly he had come out of the blocks.

In Sheffield continues to host the world snooker championship.

The Welshman even had time to eat some of a front-row fan's confectionery as he won the first four frames of the match, despite not scoring particularly heavily.

During a lull in proceedings, Williams took the opportunity to take in his surroundings, spotting something he liked.

However, a late flurry from Williams earned him a three-frame lead heading into day two, leaving Higgins - runner-up a year ago after throwing away a six-frame advantage over Mark Selby - to continue giving chase.

Watch the snooker World Championship LIVE on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with Colin Murray and analysis from Ronnie O'Sullivan, Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.

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