Mark Allen won a dramatic contest 9-8 against Mark Williams to reach the final of the International Championship in Chengdu.
PICTURES by Tai Chengzhe
Northern Ireland’s Allen let slip a 7-4 lead, but eventually made a crucial clearance in the deciding frame to set up a final meeting with Ricky Walden.
Allen and Walden will do battle over 19 frames on Sunday for the £125,000 top prize. Both have won two ranking events before – both in China. Walden won the 2008 Shanghai Masters and 2012 Wuxi Classic while Allen captured the Haikou World Open crown in 2012 and 2013. Antrim’s world number eight Allen has shown consistent form this season, winning the Paul Hunter Classic European Tour event and finishing runner-up at the Riga Open and Shanghai Masters.
Today’s result also means that Ali Carter, returning from his battle with cancer, is sure of a place at next week’s Dafabet Champion of Champions, as both Allen and Walden have already qualified for the event in Coventry.
A high quality match saw Allen build his 7-4 lead with top breaks of 92, 71, 52, 54, 105, 55, 77 and 67, while Welshman Williams knocked in 120, 135, 70 and 84.
Two-time World Champion Williams, who has shown signs of a return to form this week and knocked out Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals, battled back to 7-7, making a 102 in frame 14. Allen came from 71-0 down to steal the 15th by doubling the last black to a middle pocket.. An 86 in the next from Williams saw this classic contest, fittingly, into a decider.
Both players had chances and Williams looked favourite when he led 46-34, but he missed a tough pot on the last red and Allen made a superb 26 clearance to the pink to seal victory.
“I’ve been in matches before where I’ve played well or my opponent has played well, but today was one of those rare ones where we both played really well,” said Allen. “Mark was two balls away from winning himself but in the end I made a good clearance under pressure.
“Mark can take a lot of confidence from this event because he hasn’t been in the later stages of a tournament for a while but he has shown why he’s a multiple tournament winner.
“The 15th frame was a big one because Mark was dominating at the time. I needed two snookers and you don’t win many frames from that position.
“I’ll get some rest tonight and I’ll be more than ready for the final.”
Williams said: “I can’t grumble because I played well. You could count on the fingers of one hand how many balls Mark missed. In the last frame I had a chance at the last red which would have probably got me into the final. I thought it was in, but it finished hanging over the pocket.
“It’s been a long time since I have played that well in a match. I was a fraction of an inch from getting to the final.”