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Phil Yates reports for the BBC
"Stevens is more than half-way to becoming World Champion"
 real 28k

Sunday, 30 April, 2000, 21:52 GMT 22:52 UK
Stevens storms into Crucible lead
Stevens watches as Williams rattles in a break of 123
Embassy World Snooker final (best of 35 frames)

Latest: M Williams 6-10 M Stevens
Match resumes on Monday at 15:00 BST.

Young pretender Matthew Stevens has taken a big stride towards glory in snooker's World Championships after wrestling control of the all-Welsh final at The Crucible.

The 22-year-old blew away compatriot and hot favourite Mark Williams with a supremely confident run of form in the evening session.

Stevens produced a stunning
The pair were deadlocked at 4-4 after the hard-fought afternoon action.

But Stevens then took advantage of some sloppy play by Williams to win five frames in a row following the resumption.

Back-to-back century breaks put Stevens 9-4 ahead, and although Williams battled back well to claim two of the last three frames, the day certainly belonged to his young challenger.

In all he claimed six successive frames after finding a rich vein of potting in the Sheffield showcase, having trailed 3-4 towards the end of the first session.

Highest break

Earlier Stevens had made the better start to the final and showed no signs of nerves as he established a 3-1 lead with an impressive clearance of 103.

But Williams, who will become world number one at the end of the season, was soon level.

The 25-year-old, who knocked out John Higgins in the semis, notched an equally eye-catching century - a 123 that ranks as his highest of the tournament so far.

But Stevens came back to take the last frame of the afternoon and end the session all-square at 4-4.

The first man to 18 frames will scoop a 240,000 cheque and be crowned the first champion of the new millennium.

But whichever player wins, Wales will be guaranteed its first World Champion since Terry Griffiths' surprise win in 1979.

Tough tasks

Williams and Stevens both came through tough semi-finals to set up the first ever all-Welsh final.

In the semi-finals on Saturday, Williams produced a scintillating fightback against John Higgins to recover from 14-10 down at the start of Saturday evening and secure an amazing 17-15 triumph.

Ever since I have been a player, it's always been my dream to walk through the curtains at the Crucible on finals day

Matthew Stevens
"That is one of the finest moments of my career. It ranks with when I won the Benson and Hedges Masters on the final black a couple of years ago," said the favourite.

In the other last-four clash, Stevens held his nerve to see off Joe Swail's gallant challenge 17-12.

"Ever since I have been a player, it's always been my dream to walk through the curtains at the Crucible on finals day," he said after defeating Swail.

"It must be a magical feeling and I'm just glad I'm going to have the chance to experience that. I feel confident I can go all the way."

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See also:

30 Apr 00 | Sport
World Snooker final latest
29 Apr 00 | Sport
Stevens reaches Crucible final
28 Apr 00 | Sport
Swail makes Stevens sweat
Links to other Sport stories are at the foot of the page.