Higgins described his opponent as “lethal” as O’Sullivan treated the Sheffield crowd to a potting masterclass, making five centuries and 12 more breaks over 50 as he recovered an early 3-0 deficit to take 17 of the last 25 frames.
The Rocket is into his eighth Crucible final, having won the title in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2020; his only final defeat was against Mark Selby in 2014. He will face Trump over a possible 35 frames on Sunday and Monday for the trophy and £500,000 top prize. The champion will also finish the season as world number one.
Victory would see O’Sullivan equal Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles which has stood since 1999, and raise his marvellous career to yet another high. O’Sullivan is set to play in his 61st ranking final and is aiming for his 39th ranking title, which would move him further clear of Hendry’s previous record of 36. He is on course for a 21st Triple Crown success as he has already won the Masters and UK Championship seven times apiece.
The 46-year-old will be the oldest Crucible finalist since 1982 when a 49-year-old Ray Reardon lost to Alex Higgins. If Chigwell’s O’Sullivan wins the title he will be the oldest ever World Champion. He and Trump – the sport’s two greatest entertainers – have previously met in the ten finals, including the UK Championship and the Masters – but this will be their first Crucible final.
Higgins has had the edge over O’Sullivan in their matches this season, winning their last three meetings. But after a bright start this time, he was unable to score heavily enough to keep pace – the Scot failed to make a break over 60 until the 21st frame. The 46-year-old misses out on the chance to play for a fifth world title and, at the end of a season where he has shown a high level of consistency, he has added only the Championship League to his trophy collection.
Trailing 15-9, Higgins won the opening frame of the last session with a break of 69. He had a scoring chance in the next but ran out of position on 9, and O’Sullivan capitalised with 67 to go six up with seven to play.
Frame 27 came down to a safety battle on the last red, and Higgins got the better of the tactical exchange to keep his hopes alive. But O’Sullivan wrapped up the contest in the 28th with a break of 83.