Mark Allen finding his rhythm in bid for World Snooker success
Mark Allen is in control of his World Snooker Championship first round match with Crucible debutant Mitchell Mann after coming from behind to win five successive frames and lead 6-3 overnight.
The 30-year-old from Antrim has won just two ties at the Crucible in four years and lost the last time he faced Mann, at the China Open.
The World No.7, who won the Players Championship last month, had hoped to capitalise on any nerves the 24-year-old might have, but rethought that tactic after falling 2-1 behind.
Yet Allen rallied and went into this morning's final session with a 6-3 lead.
Mann got the chance to put his hand on the table after a misjudged safety shot from Allen. But after swiftly putting on 28 points he could not split the remaining grouped reds and was forced to play safe.
Allen, frustrated by the brief stalemate that ensued, left a long red over the pocket and Mann gobbled up his second chance, a well-constructed 69 break enough to take the first frame.
The Ulsterman looked to have found his mojo in the second frame but lost position on the blue after amassing 24 points. Mann missed a red over the pocket, though, and Allen rolled in a 74 to level matters.
A break of 40 followed by a clearance of 77 saw Mann regain the lead. The debutant looked to be cruising in frame four too, but after making 28 missed a black off the spot and Allen hit back to go into the interval all square.
Allen looked fresh when he returned, knocking in breaks of 104 then 85, with Mann potting just two reds in that time. And Allen took frame seven, too, to ensure the overnight lead.
Mann opened up a 34-point advantage in the penultimate frame of the session, but he missed an attempted cut on a black off the spot and Allen capitalised with a 78.
A break of 56 looked like it would win Mann the final frame, but he lost position and saw his lead eventually trimmed to seven. Allen, though, got his angles wrong, and Mann reduced the deficit to three frames.
Watch the World Championship LIVE on Eurosport with Colin Murray and analysis from Jimmy White and Ronnie O'Sullivan.