Selby Into Sixth Crucible Final
Mark Selby is just one match away from becoming the fourth player to conquer the Crucible five times, having survived a Mark Allen fight-back to win 17-15 in their Cazoo World Championship semi-final.
After Luca Brecel’s epic recovery earlier in the day, another turnaround looked possible when Selby’s 16-10 lead was reduced to 16-15 by gutsy Allen. But Selby’s rare capacity to thrive when the pressure is cranked up in the Crucible cauldron was evident again as he won the 32nd frame, punching the air in celebration as the last balls went down at 12.45am.
Leicester’s 39-year-old Selby, who lifted the trophy in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2021, goes through to face Brecel over 35 frames on Sunday and Monday. A fifth world title would move Selby ahead of John Higgins, and within striking distance of Steve Davis (six), Stephen Hendry (seven) and Ronnie O’Sullivan (seven).
The only final he has lost was back in 2007 when he was beaten by Higgins. Given his superior experience, determination and exceptional all-round game, Selby will start strong favourite against Brecel, who will be playing in his first Crucible final and aiming for a maiden Triple Crown success.
Most Crucible finals
Stephen Hendry 9
Steve Davis, John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan 8
Jimmy White and Mark Selby 6
World number two Selby will be playing in his 33rd ranking final – victory would give him a 23rd title and third of the season having landed the English Open and WST Classic.
The result ends Allen’s hopes of taking over as world number one; he would have taken that position from Ronnie O’Sullivan if the result had gone his way tonight. He was playing in the semi-finals in Sheffield for only the second time, and first since 2009 when he lost to John Higgins. The Northern Irishman’s ambition to win the title will have to wait another year, but he can reflect on a career-best season which has seen him win three ranking titles and re-establish himself as a real force.
Selby took the first frame of the evening session to lead 12-10. Allen might have snatched frame 23 from 38 points behind had he not missed the penultimate red to a centre pocket, presenting Selby with the chance to stretch his advantage. The Jester dominated the next three with breaks of 64, 57 and 103 (his ninth century of the tournament) to lead 16-10.
Runs of 43 and 39 helped Allen pull one back, and in frame 28 he laid a snooker on the last red, and took the chance that followed to narrow the gap to 16-12. The fight-back continued as Allen secured the 29th with a double on the penultimate red. Selby was just four pots from the winning line in frame 30 when he missed a mid-range brown to a baulk corner, and his opponent capitalised to close to 16-14. Both players missed chances in a nervy 31st, Selby narrowly failing to convert the last red from distance, and Allen cleared to make it five frames in a row.
Early in the 32nd, Allen went for a long red and missed his target, and Selby made an excellent 64 before running out of position. He was soon back among the balls and added 28 for victory.
“Every credit to Mark to come back at me from 16-10 down,” said Selby, whose route to the final has taken him past Matthew Selt, Gary Wilson, John Higgins and Allen. “Neither of us played great, but he found some form at the end. If it had gone 16-16 then anything could have happened. The Crucible is such a special place. When you are out there you are twitching all over the place, no other venue seems to do that to you. There is so much at stake. I will be out there trying my hardest in the final and hopefully that will be enough. Otherwise, it will be incredible for Luca and great for snooker if he wins it.”
Allen said: “I’m disappointed that I didn’t have my best stuff for most of the match. I was enjoying it out there and I could have been there all night, which shows that my fitness has improved and that’s something I will keep working on. There are a lot of positives to take from the season, I have won three titles and had a few other finals and semis, and that’s without playing my best in a lot of those events. I have ticked a box here by reaching the semi-finals, but at the moment I’m frustrated not to have played better.”