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Northern Ireland Open: Allen's late, late show keeps him alive as O'Sullivan exits

By Adam McKendry

Published 18/11/2016

Exit: Ronnie O’Sullivan in Belfast last night
Exit: Ronnie O’Sullivan in Belfast last night

Mark Allen needed to draw on all his experience - not to mention stamina - to win the deciding frame and get past Gary Wilson in the Northern Ireland Open at the Titanic Exhibition Centre late last night.

Wilson, the world number 39, gave Allen an almighty scare before Ulster's world number seven composed himself to triumph 4-3 and book a place in today's quarter-finals in which he will face Anthony Hamilton.

Ulsterman Allen, who defeated Robin Hull 4-1 earlier in the day in the third round, is now favourite to win the £366,000 event - which concludes on Sunday - after the exit of five-time world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan.

O'Sullivan - backed by a big support - was knocked out when Kyren Wilson secured a thrilling 4-3 victory last night.

Englishman Wilson, meeting O'Sullivan for the first time in his career, marched into a 3-0 lead only for his countryman to level the last-16 encounter courtesy of three brilliant century breaks.

But Wilson held his nerve in the seventh and deciding frame to make a break of 70 and secure a surprise victory over O'Sullivan, the world number eight, and progress to the quarter-finals.

"I was sat there at three-all and thinking I haven't done much wrong here," Wilson said.

"I was just glad I managed to bring the best out of him and that was a bit of a feather in my cap. You are the underdog against Ronnie, and you are expected to lose by everybody so I was on a win-win really.

"It is nice that I have only played Ronnie once and got the win. There are not many players that can say they have done that."

Wilson, 24, will face Mark Williams in the last eight today after the Welshman beat an in-form John Higgins earlier yesterday.

Higgins, who recorded a maximum 147 break in Belfast on Wednesday, was on the wrong end of a 4-1 defeat.

Higgins beat O'Sullivan in the final at last week's Champion of Champions event at Coventry's Ricoh Arena and was hoping for a morale-boosting triumph in Belfast ahead of next week's UK Championship. Even though many of the big names have exited at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, the fans are still set for a thrilling weekend of action with the final being played over two sessions on Sunday, battling it out for the £70,000 first prize and the Alex Higgins Trophy.

Belfast's Joe Swail, who recently had laser eye surgery, put up a brave display in the tournament before bowing out to Dominic Dale on a 4-2 scoreline.

Swail sees a big future for the new event.

"It's brilliant. Everybody has been asking about having a tournament in Northern Ireland and now we've got one for the first time in eight years," he said.

"In that time every exhibition I've done in Belfast has been full. There's definitely an appetite for a ranking event. Belfast is a brilliant place and I think the event will be a great success."

The Northern Ireland Open is part of a Home Championship series which also incorporates the English, Scottish and Welsh Opens - with a £1million bonus for anyone who can win the lot.

That won't happen this year with English Open winner Liang Wenbo already out of the Titanic showpiece.

Swail said: "I feel as if snooker is coming home with these new big events in the UK."

• Watch the Northern Ireland Open live on Eurosport 1 and Quest, featuring daily studio analysis from Ronnie O'Sullivan, Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.

Belfast Telegraph

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