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Mark Allen is on a roll after wowing Waterfront to reach NI Open quarter-finals


Mark Allen won two games in one day to reach the last eight of the Northern Ireland Open

Mark Allen won two games in one day to reach the last eight of the Northern Ireland Open

Mark Allen won two games in one day to reach the last eight of the Northern Ireland Open

Mark Allen thrilled the huge Waterfront Hall crowd on Thursday night with a dramatic 4-3 victory over Stephen Maguire to edge into today’s quarter-finals of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open.

And what a mouthwatering prospect awaits with Allen facing World number one Judd Trump - who also won 4-3 on Thursday night, against Jimmy Robertson. Trump is gunning for an incredible fourth NI title in a row.

Antrim cueman Allen, who beat two-time World Championship finalist Matthew Stevens 4-1 in the morning session, had to work hard for this victory over Maguire.

Allen’s stunning 147 maximum break at the start of the week delighted the home fans who will be hoping the 35-year-old World number 11 can finally triumph in his home event.

John Higgins hailed the Belfast crowd after staging a stunning comeback from 3-0 down against Mark Williams to reach the last eight of the £405,000 showpiece event.

The world number seven looked down and out at one stage, but one error from the Welshman opened up an opportunity to get back into the match - and he took full advantage to win 4-3.

Higgins said: “I love playing here, the fans really know their snooker and it’s a great venue.

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“Mark is a superb player and we’ve built up so much respect for each other over the years.”

Higgins, ranked one place above Williams, was out of sorts in the first three frames, and Williams took full advantage.

In the first two frames, the Scot could only manage a combined total of 21 points, as Williams cleaned up, first with a break of 69 and then by doubling his advantage by taking the second 79-11.

Higgins started to work his way back into the match in the third frame - his break of 56 higher than his rival’s best effort, but he still found himself 3-0 down by the end of it.

In their 40th meeting at ranking event level, it looked like Williams was going to secure just a second ever whitewash over Higgins, but with victory nearing, he missed what should have been a fairly simple red, and Higgins cleared the table to give himself a glimmer of hope..

That seemed to light the fire in the four-time World champion, who continued his momentum with a 110 break to move to within one frame of levelling.

The sixth frame was a much more close and tactical affair, but Higgins was in the groove now and he sent the tie to a decider.

Williams had had to don a slipper at the tournament after he claimed a dietary switch to vegetarianism saw him suffer with gout.

Ahead of his clash with Higgins, Williams revealed that a bout of gout had left him unable to put a shoe on his left foot.

Williams, renowned for his love of fast food, said that a switch to vegetarianism may have prompted the gout.

“A couple of weeks before it happened, for no reason I stopped eating meat and went on a vegetarian diet for a couple of weeks – and then I got gout!” he said.

“I’m feeling much better now. I can almost walk like normal. I’m on these tablets for it now.

“I have a slipper on my left foot. I cannot get a shoe on it. It’s too painful. I brought it over with me to Northern Ireland.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s hoodoo at the Northern Ireland Open continued as he crashed out in the last 16 to Yan Bingtao.

The Rocket, who is yet to win the title in Belfast having finished runner-up in the last three editions to Trump on the same 9-7 scoreline, bowed out to Masters champion Yan 4-3.

O’Sullivan had forced a decider with an impeccable clearance under pressure, but cracked while playing a left-handed pink to hand advantage to his Chinese opponent in the crucial seventh frame.

Yan initially failed to capitalise but, aided by O’Sullivan repeatedly serving up more opportunities, he eventually got over the line.

The 21-year-old will play Mitchell Mann in Friday’s quarter-finals.

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