UK Championship: Allen left crushed by classy Higgins
Mark Allen’s UK Championship dream died at the semi-final stage last night at the hands of John Higgins, 9-5.
The Antrim man’s tale of semi-final heartbreak now stretches to five after missing out on sealing a cherished place in the final of the second biggest tournament in the snooker calendar.
There was no separating Higgins and Allen in their first session at Telford yesterday afternoon but the three-times world champion asserted his authority last night.
At the break the pulsating encounter was delicately balanced at 4-4 but the Scot seized control like a man on a mission, intent on completing a fairytale return to major championship competition.
Higgins, in his first tournament in Britain since a six-month ban for bringing the game into disrepute, found Allen a tricky opponent from the off.
The Scot led three times only to be pegged straight back by the 24-year-old and had to win the final frame before the interval to ensure he went into the break level.
He got off to a flying start as a break of 96 gave him the early advantage.
Allen, though, responded in even more impressive fashion, a long red paving the way for a magnificent 130.
A 64 put Higgins back in front but again he was unable to consolidate his advantage, a 79 bringing Allen level. A place in the final against either Shaun Murphy or Mark Williams was at stake and the pressure first started to show in frame five, both players wasting chances to close out the frame before Higgins showed his experience to nick it 69-65.
But again the Antrim potter hit back, taking the next two frames to move into the lead for the first time in the match, but Higgins wrapped up the final one of the session to keep it neck and neck in a tense contest.
Higgins came out of the blocks quicker after the restart to make it 5-4 and Allen missed a red in the next frame to allow Higgins to go two clear for the first time in the match.
But Allen, who beat Ding Junhui in the final frame in round two, wasn’t a beaten man just yet and he hit straight back though his joy was shortlived as Higgins soon restored his two-frame advantage with a break of 68.
Higgins was in the groove now and a century in frame 13 gave the favourite an 8-5 lead.
The 35-year-old could smell victory and he finished off the Antrim man in the next frame.
However, Allen’s reputation as a dangerous opponent has grown with another fine performance. Although disappointed after coming agonisingly close to another final, Allen will have learned a huge amount from his latest setback — and he will be even hungrier to end his run of semi-final heartbreak. Murphy will meet Williams in the second semi-final today.
Murphy beat Australian Neil Robertson 9-7 while Williams overcame Mark Joyce by the same scoreline in Thursday's quarter-finals.