World number four Mark Allen holds a narrow 5-4 lead over Jamie Clarke after a scintillating session of snooker in their Betfred World Championship first round clash.
Allen fired a barrage of four centuries and is now just one away from equalling Ronnie O’Sullivan’s record for most in a best of 19 match at the Crucible. The Rocket made five in his first round clash with David Gray in 2000.
The Pistol came into this year’s event already in good form, having reached the final of the recent Tour Championship, where he was runner-up to Stephen Maguire.
World number 89 Clarke has more than held his own on his Crucible debut, having negotiated the qualifying stages to save his place on the circuit. He needed to come through three rounds at the English Institute of Sport to avoid relegation from the tour and reach the Theatre of Dreams.
This morning’s encounter got off to a blistering start. Northern Irishman Allen piled the pressure on Clarke, composing breaks of 136 and 105 to move into a 2-0 lead.
Welshman Clarke was undaunted and crafted a century run of his own with a superb 136 to cut his arrears in half. Clarke then needed three snookers in the fourth frame, but got them and clinched it on the black to make it 2-2 at the mid-session.
When they returned, Clarke pinched a second consecutive frame on the black to move ahead for the first time at 3-2. Allen responded swiftly and took to the front once more with back-to-back century breaks of 122 and 104. He then claimed the eighth frame on a re-spotted black to lead 5-3.
However, Clarke crucially clinched the final frame of the session to trail by just one heading into tonight’s conclusion. They return at 7pm.