John Higgins stepped up his bid to win three tournaments within the space a month by beating Mark Allen 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals of the Betway UK Championship.
Higgins won the China Championship and Champion of Champions in November – banking £300,000 in the process – and started December in the same vein with a fine display against Allen in York. In Friday’s quarter-finals Higgins will meet World Champion Mark Selby, and if he can come through that test he’ll be just two wins away from another piece of silverware and a fourth UK title.
The Scot won the opening frame today on the colours and the second with a break of 85. Allen stormed back to take three in a row with runs of 78, 105 and 65. Higgins took the next with a 101 for 3-3.
Allen had chances in frame seven but crucially missed the final yellow to a baulk corner, allowing his opponent to pot yellow and green then double the brown to a centre pocket, which proved enough to put Higgins back in front. And world number four Higgins went on to win the last two frames with breaks of 68 and 90.
“Mark missed the chance to put his foot on my throat,” said Wishaw’s Higgins, who is chasing his 29th ranking title. “My concentration went haywire for a few frames and he was growing in confidence. If he had gone 4-2 up he might have gone on to win so the sixth frame was a big turning point for me, to get back to 3-3. After that I played better.
“I’m delighted about the way things are going – to win two titles, to be in the quarter-finals here to play Mark Selby, and just to be feeling good about my game. In the past I might have been blasé about winning tournaments, but now I realise I will not be playing forever and I have to savour every moment.
“I remember playing Mark (Selby) for two days in the World final in 2007 and I could tell then he was going to be a champion. He has gone on to prove that with what he has achieved.”
Jamie Jones made it through to the fourth ranking event quarter-final of his career with a superb 6-2 win over David Gilbert. Neath’s 28-year-old Jones knocked out Ding Junhui in the previous round and kept his run going.
Breaks of 58 and 96 helped give the Welshman a 4-1 lead and he won the sixth frame with a long pot on the final black, having got the snooker he needed on the blue. Gilbert pulled one back before world number 39 Jones secured victory in a scrappy eighth frame. He now meets Marco Fu.
““I don’t get on the TV that often, so you’d have thought I might have got nervous, but I didn’t which was great,” said Jones. “I started well again, which I have done in all my matches, and David really didn’t settle in at all from then on, but that’s what happens when you put your opponent under pressure.
“I did get a little nervy at the end; I had two of the biggest twitches I’ve ever had and nearly fell over. But it feels great to get over the line and it’s a relief. I’m really happy to get through.
“I think I should have been 4-0 up at the interval, but that break of 96 came just after and getting that quick-fire break straight away got my nose in front again. I’ve had a couple of wins against Marco out of four, so he’ll know how well I can play. He’s a good scorer so it should be an open game, which will suit me.”