Premier League 2012: Robertson Comeback Denies Ding

Trailing 2-0 and looking on as Ding potted what looked to effectively be semi-final ball, Neil Robertson’s hopes of reaching the Premier League play-offs in Grimsby looked to be lost. Remarkably however, the Australian still found a way to pull a 4-2 victory out of the fire in a thrilling conclusion to the league phase of the competition last night…

Neil Robertson 4 – 2 Ding Junhui
71-72 (Robertson 71, Ding 53), 5-102 (Ding 95), 62-59 (Ding 59), 83-26 (Roberston70), 77-22 (Robertson 41), 67-57 (Robertson 51, Ding 57)

John Higgins 2 – 4 Peter Ebdon
29-66, 130-1 (Higgins 125), 133-0 (Higgins 133), 1-87 (Ebdon 75), 11-68 (Ebdon 61), 43-81 (Higgins 47, Ebdon 81)

Needing nothing less than a win against Ding Junhui to secure the final play-off place at the 2012 Premier League, Neil Robertson looked to have got off to the perfect start when he left his opponent needing a snooker on the pink in the opening frame.

Ding though had other ideas, earning the snooker and potting the pink, before eventually managing to add the black to steal the frame. As is so often the case when a player loses a frame in that manner, the next then passed Robertson by quickly as Ding hit a break of 95, to leave himself one frame away from progression.

The third frame too looked as though it would go Ding’s way, particularly as he potted the final red to all but secure the point that he needed. There was to be a twist however, as the cue ball headed in-off to the yellow pocket and Robertson was given a reprieve.

With the black awkwardly placed just above the right-centre, the Australian was forced to screw back from the pink to leave a possible double, but as he hit the shot, immediately realised that he had got too much on it, saying “oh no, oh no, stop!” as the cueball looked destined to drop into the left-centre. Much to his relief however, it just stayed out, resting against the near knuckle and he duly doubled the black to keep his hopes alive.

Having taken the next two frames relatively comfortably to lead the match 3-2, the play-off place with effectively be decided by one final frame and the momentum looked to be all with Robertson. To Ding’s credit however, he began the ‘decider’ by dropping in a brilliant long red, landing on the black and soon getting the reds open into perfect position. As the break hit the half-century mark, there did not look to be any way that he would miss as Robertson could only look on from his chair.

There was though to be a final twist, a kick leaving Ding short on a black, which he could then only over-cut to hand Robertson a lifeline. Although Neil needed a couple of chances, he was not about to falter and with a clearance of 51 to the pink, he completed the most unlikely of four-frame streaks to earn a play-off place.

After the match, commentator Willie Thorne described Robertson as ‘bottle personified’ and it is hard to argue with that assessment, indeed I cannot think of too many other players who would have come back in that situation.

Neil will now play Judd Trump in the semi-finals, after John Higgins lost 4-2 to Peter Ebdon in the evening’s earlier match.

Less than 24 hours after his marathon win at the UKPTC4 event, Higgins actually hit breaks of 133 and 125 in the two frames that he did win to earn £4,000 for the evening, but Peter and his ‘vegan power’ proved too strong on the night for the four-time world champion. Nevertheless, John will progress to the play-offs and a clash with the in-form Stuart Bingham, who has already earned £23,000 from the group stages.

The play-offs will take place at the Grimsby Auditorium on 24-25 November 2012.