Mark Allen through to Northern Ireland Open quarter finals after win over Gary Wilson
Mark Allen is through to the last eight of his home Coral Northern Ireland Open after a hard-fought victory over Gary Wilson.
Neither player was on form in the Titanic Exhibition Centre, the tension proving its worth, though it was Allen who finally held his own in the early hours to complete the success, 4-3.
The fine margins of the game came to the fore as early as the first frame, coming down to the final few balls before Allen gave Wilson half a chance on the blue, an opportunity duly snatched.
But roared on by a full home crowd, Allen fought back with back-to-back frames, a break of 79 in the third a rare form of consistency from the world No.10.
The lead seemed to fire Allen up in his bid for the semi-finals, an impressive blue the focal point of his game-levelling fourth frame – spanning more than 30 minutes – once again finding rhythm to take the lead for the first time.
But the tension only ramped up thereon, both missing vital shots when having opportunities in the sixth frame, Wilson guilty of spurning a frame-winning red before eventually winning the safety battle.
And the seventh frame was also devoid of match-winning quality with Allen eventually getting the run of the balls to make a sizeable break, sending him to Friday’s last eight where Anthony Hamilton awaits.
And Allen will be joined by Kyren Wilson in Friday’s last eight, though he had to recover from a resurgent Ronnie O’Sullivan fightback to win 4-3.
It was a victory built on brash confidence from the world No.15, seemingly taking on any red he could possibly see, a ploy looking infallible when ball after ball found the middle of the pocket.
But it was an audacious double on the second-frame-clinching red that really stole the show, with the Rocket needing to pull something special out of the bag.
And O’Sullivan very nearly did. Breaks of 108, 117 and 126 saw the five-time world champion bring the game back to 3-3, seemingly with the momentum behind him.
But a sublime last frame from Wilson saw him scrape over the line, a break of 70 a pleasing way to hold his bottle.
“When you’re 3-0 up against Ronnie you can’t take your foot off the gas,” he said.
“But I don’t think I did, he just seemed to be knocking all the long ones in – I had one shot in the fourth frame before he had a century.
“So I was pleased to hold my nerve and get over the line, I’ve felt good all week and came in fresh and we certainly brought the best out of each other.”
Wilson goes onto play Mark Williams in the Titanic Exhibition Centre, the Welshman getting the better of John Higgins to end his 11-match winning streak.
Both players struggled as Williams took the colour from the Scot’s purple patch, prevailing 4-1 after Higgins had made a 147-maximum break earlier in the tournament.
And Higgins was left underwhelmed with his whimpering exit, failing to capitalise on the momentum that saw him clinch back-to-back titles.
“I’m disappointed, I played very badly here and it was a poor game in general. Mark did what he had to do but I wasn’t at the races in this one,” he said.
“Some frames I couldn’t even break off. It’s just one of those things.”
Hamilton now goes on to face Allen after his 4-3 win over Yan Bingtao, Michael White plays Barry Hawkins while Hossein Vafaei Ayouri and Mark King go head to head.
Watch the Northern Ireland Open LIVE on Eurosport 1 and Quest, featuring daily studio analysis from Ronnie O’Sullivan, Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.