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Higgins makes Allen pay to set up Selby showdown

Published 01/12/2016

John Higgins is closing in on another title but faces a tough task against Mark Selby
John Higgins is closing in on another title but faces a tough task against Mark Selby

John Higgins fended off Mark Allen to set up a Betway UK Championship quarter-final showdown with world champion Mark Selby.

The modern era giants of the game will go head to head in York on Friday after Higgins came from 3-2 behind to see off Allen 6-3 at the York Barbican.

Higgins has won the China Championship and Champion of Champions events over the last month, scooping £300,000 in prize money, and has his sights on the £125,000 top prize this weekend.

The 41-year-old Scot was in trouble, by his own admission, when Allen forged ahead after the interval in their absorbing battle, but he capitalised on the Northern Irish left-hander's misses to swing the momentum his way.

Allen had a top break of 105, but runs of 85, 101, 68 and a closing 90 from Higgins kept alive hopes of a fourth UK title for the Wishaw cueman.

"I'm delighted to win but Mark will be kicking himself," Higgins said. "When he went 3-2 in front he had a couple of good chances to make it 4-2 and he looked as if he was playing well and I was struggling at that time."

Higgins pinpointed a tough red to the middle pocket in frame eight as the key ball in the contest, saying: "I was going to play safe but I told myself to go for the match, go for the win. It maybe wasn't the shot to go for but I managed to get it."

Such balls go in for players riding the crest of a wave, as Higgins admitted.

He told the BBC: "I'm definitely still riding it. Mark was missing a couple when in previous matches against him he wouldn't have missed them, and that's what happens when you're on a roll. But if you're struggling out there, the other guy doesn't miss those chances.

"You've got to run with it while it happens because your luck will change sooner or later."

Selby earned his quarter-final berth on Wednesday, and Higgins forecasts their afternoon clash on Friday will be a feast for the eyes.

"He's world number one for a reason. Every credit to him," Higgins said. "He's such a tough competitor and I look forward to it, it'll be a good game I'm sure."

Higgins is a regular presence in the latter stages of snooker's top events, but Welshman Jamie Jones has barely made his presence felt since surprisingly reaching the World Championship quarter-finals four years ago.

That has changed this fortnight, though, and the 28-year-old world number 39 from Neath earned his last-eight place by brushing aside David Gilbert 6-2, earning a shot at Hong Kong's Marco Fu on Friday evening.

Jones, guaranteed £22,500 already, said: "I feel I can relax more now because I know I'm getting paid. I've got a couple of quid to take the pressure off me."

Luca Brecel will tackle Shaun Murphy in the last eight after the 21-year-old Belgian beat Scotland's Stephen Maguire 6-3 in the evening session.

Mark Williams booked a meeting with Ronnie O'Sullivan after edging out Liam Highfield 6-5.

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