Mark Allen became hot favourite for the Cazoo British Open title as he beat Mark Selby 5-3 to reach the semi-finals, remaining on course for a seventh career ranking crown.
Allen followed up yesterday’s victory over Judd Trump by knocking out another of snooker’s top guns, and the world number 14 is the highest ranked player left in the field in Milton Keynes. He will play in the first semi-final from 1pm on Saturday afternoon (live on the main ITV channel) with the random draw for the last four to be made this evening.
On the other table, Robbie Williams beat Lyu Haotian 5-1 to reach the semi-finals of a ranking event for the third time in his career. The world number 61 is now guaranteed £20,000, his second-biggest pay day.
Northern Ireland’s 36-year-old Allen is seeking his first title since winning his home tournament in Belfast last October. Having lost over four stone in weight over the summer, he has come into the new season full of confidence. The Pistol had lost his previous two meetings with Selby, but proved the stronger player at the business end of today’s contest.
Four-time Crucible king Selby started strongly with a break of 123 in the opening frame, then Allen took a scrappy second before making a superb 143 to lead 2-1. In frame four, Selby missed a mid-range red to a corner pocket on 34 and his opponent punished him with a 75 clearance.
After the interval, Leicester’s Selby made a 103 to close the gap to 3-2, then got the better of a safety exchange on the penultimate red in frame six and took the chance to level the tie. In the crucial seventh frame, Selby led 51-12 when his attempted long pot on the third-last red missed by several inches. Allen made an excellent 47 to regain the lead, and a long red early in the eighth set him up for a match-winning 126.
“I’m very proud of the clearance I made at 3-3 because the balls were tough,” said Allen. “I felt I was being frozen out of the match up until that point. Mark’s safety was immaculate, every time I came to the table I had no shot. I stayed patient and showed a lot of character in the end.
“I’m sure I’ll be favourite to win the tournament now but all of the other guys still in the field are there for a reason – they have all played well this week and they are all dangerous. Whoever I draw next is going to be very tough.”
Williams, age 35 from the Wirral, reached his two previous ranking semi-finals at the 2013 Indian Open and 2022 BetVictor Shoot Out.
After losing the opening frame today, he trailed 55-0 in the second, but hit back to win it on the colours. That proved a turning point as Williams took the next four frames in a row with a top break of 49.
“I didn’t score well today but it was all about getting the win,” said Williams, whose biggest scalp this week was Ding Junhui in the last 32. “The main thing for me is concentration. In the past I have struggled with keeping my focus at the big moments, but I have managed to do that this week. That has made a huge difference.
“These are the opportunities I want to grasp because it helps me get into the other ITV events later in the season. A run like this can kickstart a whole career. I wasn’t playing well today but I kept reminding myself to stay focussed and stick in there.”