16/07/11 06:18 BST
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Andrew Higginson will be in dreamland when he takes on Stephen Maguire in the semi-finals of the Welsh Open in Newport on Saturday night.

What a difference a year has made for the likeable 29-year-old from Widnes, who yesterday fired in a 147 break during an eye-catching 5-1 victory over Ali Carter.

Twelve months ago Higginson was in obscurity, competing on the second-tier Challenge Tour at an off-season holiday camp in Prestatyn, north Wales

having lost his main tour card.

But at no point did the former north-west amateur champion, who pocketed

only �,000 in prize money during his first 11 years as a professional, ever contemplate hanging up his cue.

"Packing it in never entered my head because I always knew I was good enough to play the game at top level," said Higginson.

By finishing in the top eight on the Challenge Tour rankings, Higginson was promoted back into the big time and began to show his potential by beating Steve Davis en route to the last 16 of the Malta Cup.

"It's all about self-belief. I was giving my opponents too much respect," he added.

"Sometimes you tend to forget how good you are but now I'm not playing the person, I'm playing the balls."

Yet despite his encouraging form in Malta, Higginson's seven-match winning run from the first qualifying round to the last four of the Welsh Open has delighted and surprised him in equal measure.

"I'm feeling numb. The whole thing is unbelievable," said the provisional world number 63, who had already eliminated Hong Kong's Marco Fu, Scotland's John Higgins and Ireland's Michael Judge before blitzing number.15 seed Carter.

Higginson increased his century count for the event to seven with breaks of 104 - in the clinching frame - and a maximum, worth �,000 in the second.

"I can't tell you how happy I am with that. To make a 147 on television and on a stage like that is beyond my wildest dreams," said Higginson, who has made "dozens of maximums in practice," but never, until now, in tournament

play, amateur or professional.

"Just to be on telly, playing these guys, is fantastic but to hit a 147 as well, that's incredible."

The crucial shot was the last red. Higginson potted it at pace to a middle pocket, stunned the cue-ball past the blue and yellow, in and out of baulk and, having ran fully 20 feet the white came to a stop perfectly on the black.

From there it was plain sailing - obvious nerves aside - as Higginson mopped up the colours to make only the third 147 in the 15-year history of the Welsh Open.

Maguire, in his first ranking semi-final since capturing the UK Championship title in 2004, will not be taking anything for granted.

"The tournament is wide open. On paper I'm favourite to beat Andrew but here he's played much better than me," said the Glaswegian, after beating Shaun Murphy 5-3 in a grudge match.

At the 2004 Grand Prix in Preston Murphy angered Maguire by claiming a frame off him because he had forgotten to bring his chalk to the table.

As soon as Maguire left the arena to retrieve it, Murphy spoke to the referee, tournament director Mike Ganley was summoned and he docked Maguire a frame for technically not being ready to start at the scheduled time.

"That put the icing on the cake but we've always had a rivalry.I dislike him and I think he dislikes me. I try hard to beat everyone but it would have hurt more if I'd lost to him," said Maguire.

In today's first semi-final 49-year-old Davis continues his attempt to win his first world-ranking tournament since the 1995 Welsh Open by taking on high-flying Australian Neil Robertson.

Evergreen Davis rallied from 3-0 and 4-3 adrift to beat Anthony Hamilton 5-4 while Robertson, a day on from ousting Stephen Hendry, also recovered from one down with two to play to edge Ronnie O'Sullivan by the same score.

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