Mark Allen came out on top in a gritty battle against Joe Perry at the Dafabet Masters, winning 6-4 to reach the semi-finals at Alexandra Palace.
In stark contrast to Allen’s opening match against John Higgins, which included a barrage of high scoring, today’s contest was a fragmented affair as both players struggled to find rhythm and confidence. Allen’s top break was a mere 55, but he held his nerve the better of the pair at the crucial part of the match to set up a meeting with Stephen Maguire or Shaun Murphy tomorrow.
World number six Allen is through to the Masters semis for the second time, and the first time since 2011 when he lost to Marco Fu. The 28-year-old from Antrim will be aiming to reach the final of a Triple Crown event for the second time and first since the 2011 UK Championship when he finished runner-up to Judd Trump.
Allen won the opening frame today by potting the final pink and black, then Perry levelled with a run of 49. A colours clearance gave Allen the third and breaks of 46 and 30 put him 3-1 up.
Perry, playing in the quarter-finals of the Masters for the first time, recovered to 3-3 thanks to runs of 50 and 68. Frame seven came down to the colours and again Allen snatched it by potting blue and pink. Perry restored parity with a 67 in the eighth then Allen regained the lead with a 55.
Both players had chances in frame ten, Perry crucially missing a black off the spot when he trailed 36-6. Later in the frame, Perry’s attempted safety shot was unlucky to hit the jaw of a centre pocket, gifting Allen the chance to seal victory.
“It was embarrassing at times,” admitted Allen. “I said after my first match that we are out there to entertain people, but that was nowhere near entertainment. It was as bad as it gets for two professional snooker players, let along two of the top players. But I’m proud of the way I stayed calm, and I fancied the job at 4-4, even though Joe had scored more heavily than me. I made a good break at 4-4 and didn’t miss much in the last frame. I showed again that I’ve got good bottle under pressure.
“Joe hasn’t got a good record in the Masters and he made mistakes towards the end. He’s a very good player and a great guy but he hasn’t got a good record in the later stages of big tournaments. It was always in the back of my mind that if it went close then he might miss one or two.
“The first frame of a match often sets the tone, and we both struggled early on and dragged each other down. I’m very happy to still be in the tournament because that’s the type of match I would have lost a few years ago. I’m nowhere near my best, that was ten per cent of the way I can play. The good thing is that I can’t get any worse.”
Perry said: “It was a comedy of errors. When you start missing balls then tension and anxiety creep in and it just snowballs. Those type of matches always tend to go close. I lost all of the close frames – or maybe I threw them away. Over a long season you’re bound to play the odd bad game, you just don’t want to do it on a big stage like this. But I’ll go into my next match as positive and confident as ever.”