John Higgins produced a sensational clearance to draw level with Mark Allen at 4-4 after the first session of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open final at the Waterfront Hall.
Scotland’s four-time World Champion Higgins and Northern Ireland’s former Masters champion Allen entered the arena to a raucous reception this afternoon and produced a captivating session of snooker for the Belfast crowd.
This is the 19th meeting between the pair, who stand at 9-9 in the head-to-head record. The winner this evening will receive £70,000 and claim the Alex Higgins Trophy for the first time.
It was Antrim’s home hero Allen who seized the early initiative this afternoon. He claimed the first frame, before a break of 82 saw him move 2-0 ahead. Higgins responded with a century run of 123. However, Allen won the fourth to head into the mid-session 3-1 ahead.
When play resumed a break of 68 saw Higgins pull within one. Allen then edged a 24-minute sixth frame to regain his two frame cushion and lead 4-2.
A run of 55 saw Higgins make it 4-3, before a dramatic climax to the session. Trailing 63-16, the Wizard of Wishaw conjured a stunning clearance of 48 to steal on the black and end the afternoon level at 4-4.
Play resumes at 7pm with the first to nine frames taking home the title.