Nigel Bond’s brilliant run at the Betway UK Championship came to an end at the quarter-final stage as he lost an exciting battle against Mark Allen 6-5.
Bond had knocked out the likes of Judd Trump and Gary Wilson and looked like he might extend his run when he led 3-1. But Allen fought back for victory and he’s just one win away from his third UK final, having been runner-up in York in 2011 and 2018. On Saturday evening he’ll face Stephen Maguire, who scored a 6-4 win over Matthew Stevens.
Northern Ireland’s Allen, the highest ranked player left in the field at seventh in the world, is aiming for his second Triple Crown title having won the Masters last year.
But his hopes looked to be fading tonight as 54-year-old Bond took a 3-1 interval advantage with a top break of 74. Allen stepped up a gear to win the next three frames with top runs of 89 and 98 to lead 4-3. Bond won the eighth with a run of 87 then Allen regained the lead with a 69.
A scrappy tenth frame went Bond’s way to make it 5-5, but a safety error from the Englishman early in the decider let Allen in for a run of 69. Bond battled for snookers, but when he missed a tough blue after potting the penultimate red he offered the handshake.
“I was very edgy all day, it’s not often you are big favourite to win a match at this stage of a major tournament,” said 33-year-old Allen. “I didn’t handle it well and I nearly became another notch on Nigel’s belt. I’m very proud of the way I played from 3-1 down. I hit some balls during the interval to try to get some rhythm and after that I played better. In the last frame I felt very calm.
“When I play Stephen Maguire we will be trying to batter each other off the table. We will both go for our shots because we don’t know any other way.”
‘Angry’ Maguire Comes Good
Maguire’s aggressive style of play paid off as he came from 4-3 down to win the last three frames against Stevens.
Glasgow’s Maguire won this title in 2004 and has since reached the final in 2007 and the semi-finals on four other occasions, but is yet to hold the trophy again. He is targeting his first ranking title since 2013.
A break of 135 put him 3-2 up tonight before Welshman Stevens stole frame six with a 60 clearance and the seventh by doubling the final blue to a centre pocket. But 2003 UK Champion Stevens scored just nine points in the last three frames as Maguire knocked in runs of 123, 83 and 66.
“At 4-3 down I decided to go for my shots because I was getting dismantled, losing all the close frames,” said 38-year-old Maguire. “I was angry because I gifted him a couple of frames. I would rather go out swinging. If the shots I had gone for didn’t go in I could have lost 6-3.
“I’m just going to attack now. My safety isn’t as good as some of the other players so it’s better for me to try to make matches into a scoring battle.
“Mark Allen is tough, gritty, he scores fast and he can grind frames out. He’s in the top eight for a reason. I have lost a few semi-finals here so I’m determined to reach the final this time.”
Maguire is now sure of a place at the Dafabet Masters, while Stevens is out of the running. If Yan Bingtao reaches the final in York he’ll be among the top 16, otherwise it will be Joe Perry at Alexandra Palace next month.