One of the ironies of the 2018 World Snooker Championships is that the tournament has arguably been made better by the early departurea of the two best players in the sport.
Three-time winner and defending champion Mark Selby crashed out in the first round, losing 10-4 to Joe Perry. Ronnie O’Sullivan, meanwhile, was defeated for only the second time in his career by Ali Carter 13-9.
The tournament was thus wide open for the other players, including Kent’s Barry Hawkins and rising star Kyren Wilson.
Both reached the semi-finals and both were taking on previous winners.
While few gave Wilson a chance against four-times champion John Higgins, the 26-year-old tried to keep up with the Scotsman but eventually lost 17-13.
But it was Hawkins, who hails from Ditton near Maidstone, whom snooker fans in Kent believed had every chance of making it to the final and winning his first crown.
Alas, it was not to be as the Welshman who had been behind for most of the match powered through the final frames last night to win 17-15.
He took a black just before midnight last night to secure his place in the final for a chance at his third world title, having won it in 2000 and 2003.
The Higgins v Williams final takes place over today and tomorrow at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and starts this afternoon.
Higgins is 42 while Williams is 43. Whichever player wins will be the oldest to take the title since Ray Reardon won it aged 45 in 1978.
Defeat last night for Hawkins will be particularly bitter. He is a losing finalist once and has been knocked out at the semi-final stage four times.
Nevertheless, he remains one of the best players in the world and is currently ranked sixth in the world behind Selby, O’ Sullivan, Ding Junhui, Judd Trump and Higgins.