BARRY Hawkins let the emotions flood out at the end of a titanic quarter-final against Dominic Dale which he edged 13-12 in the match of the Dafabet World Championship.
A relieved Hawk sealed a Crucible rematch against Ronnie O’Sullivan, who beat him in last year’s Sheffield final, after somehow finding something at the death against Dale.
World No4 Hawkins had looked home and hosed at 11-5 up coming in to the final session on Wednesday – but watched on in horror as the Dale comeback gathered pace.
Wales’s world No28 Dale, 42, put together an incredible run of seven frames in a row to actually lead 12-11 and turn the match on its head.
But when he needed it most Hawkins found his very best, and as he sank the match-clinching pink on a break of 65 in the decider he repeatedly punched the table.
It was an uncharacteristic display from Kent’s Hawkins - and showed just what the match and the Crucible meant to him after all looked to have been snatched away.
Hawkins said: “Never in doubt, was it? Jesus. It was an unbelievable match. I would have been devastated to lose it, but Dominic played so well to come back.
“It was just very pleasing to show some real bottle at the end in those last two frames, which I played really well.
“It is a tough place when someone is coming back like that and I am still buzzing with the adrenaline. It means so much, my hand will probably hurt later but you can’t always bottle everything up. I can’t wait to play Ronnie, and I will be okay for tomorrow.”
Dale had been bidding to reach a first Crucible semi-final, having got to the last eight for only the second time 14 years after his first.
He said: “I was pretty calm at 12-11, but at least Barry won those frames rather than me losing them. The two he played at the end were outstanding.
“The match was won for Barry at 11-5, but once I got back to 11-9 I fancied the job, and thought it was almost 50-50. I just hope his hand is okay! And he has expended a lot of mental energy there, you saw that at the end.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos