Judd Trump and Mark Allen secured BetVictor Northern Ireland Open last 16 victories to set up a blockbuster quarter-final showdown at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.
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Trump, a winner of 22 ranking titles, booked his passage to the last eight with a narrow 4-3 defeat of former European Masters winner Jimmy Robertson.
The Ace in the Pack is looking for a fourth consecutive Northern Ireland Open title this week. He has beaten Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-7 in all of the previous three finals. Regardless of what happens over the weekend, Trump is guaranteed to overhaul Mark Selby and return to the world number one position at the end of the event.
In a tense encounter, it was Trump who hit the front first this evening. The 2019 World Champion took the opening two frames to lead 2-0. However, Robertson showed his steel to fire back into contention and level at 2-2. Trump then moved a frame from victory, before a run of 59 helped Robertson to force a decider at 3-3.
It was Trump who seized the initiative and led 49-0, before a missed red presented Bexhill’s Robertson with an opportunity. However, he potted just one red before missing a straightforward yellow and Trump crossed the line to secure the win.
Trump said: “It was another really tough one. I was 2-0 up and I kind of took my foot off the gas. The concentration isn’t quite there. I’m normally good that when I have my opponent on the ropes I put them away. I’m just not doing that at the moment. You get punished at this level and I nearly went out because of it.
“I felt a bit nervous out there because I’ve barely played in a tournament all season and you don’t want to go out at this stage. This is where it gets going. I knew this match was to play Mark Allen as well. This is a special event and it will be a special atmosphere tomorrow as well.
“I love it out there. That is the sort of atmosphere I enjoy and Mark Allen is very similar to me. He gets up for the real big events. This tournament is super special to him. He would love to have a great week here, he already has by making a 147. He will be trying to make it the perfect week in Belfast and win the tournament. I am there to try and stop him.”
Northern Ireland’s home hero Allen clinched his progression with an exciting 4-3 win over close friend Stephen Maguire.
Breaks of 101 and 62 helped Allen to establish a 3-1 advantage and move one away from the win. However, Scotland’s Maguire came from 45-0 behind to take the fifth and then ensured a decider with a fine clearance of 89 in the sixth.
Maguire had first chance and made 42 before a slice of misfortune as potted the black and split the reds, only for the cue ball to drop into a centre pocket. Former Masters champion Allen made sublime clearance of 69 which included several excellent pots, as he set up a showdown with Trump. They will take to the baize at 12pm on Friday.
World number 18 David Gilbert beat World Champion and world number one Mark Selby 4-2 to book a quarter-final meeting with John Higgins. Gilbert composed breaks of 115 and 71 on his way to this evening’s win.
Ricky Walden claimed his place in the last eight with a 4-3 defeat of Jackson Page. Next up Walden faces a quarter-final clash with 2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy.