UK Championship: Allen shows he has the fist for a fight
Mark Allen’s fist-pumping celebration at the end of 19 nail-biting frames against Ding Junhui said it all.
While it may not have brought the fortunes that Graeme McDowell’s similar antics did in California at the weekend, the Antrim ace’s victory over the defending UK champion will mean just as much.
By his own admission he has been under-performing and in the less than glamourous surroundings of Telford’s subsidiary tables, he held his nerve to edge out the Chinese star by nine frames to eight.
The exuberance of his celebration was more relief that ecstasy as resuming 6-2 to the good, World No.11 Allen was gradually reeled in by Ding.
Allen kept his nose in front, but just couldn’t shake off Ding, who clawed his way back to force a deciding 17th frame. It was the Ulsterman who kept his emotions in check to sink the pink and set up a last eight meeting with Stuart Bingham.
It means he has a great chance of making it through to the semi-final of what is regarded as the second most important ranking even on the snooker calendar, but Allen will be taking nothing for granted against the Englishman.
Bingham, who defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan earlier in the competition made short work of his last 16 clash with Hong Kong’s Marco Fu, winning 9-2.
Elsewhere, John Higgins’ rehabilitation into the game continued when he also needed a final frame to get the better of fellow Scot Graeme Dott.
Higgins hit back from behind to scrape a 9-8 win with breaks of 56 and 24 to seal victory and a last eight meeting with fellow Scot Stephen Maguire, who rounded off a 9-7 win over Mark Selby with a break of 135.
Higgins said “It's good to be back and I'm motivated full-stop for the second chapter.
“I just came here to try to win games and tough games are what you want because you know you'll have to play well to win them.
“It was very tough and Graeme doesn't get the credit he deserves for his game. It's such a tough match to win 9-8 and Graeme will be kicking himself because there were a couple of frames I stole from him.”
World champion Neil Robertson held off a mini-fightback by Andrew Higginson to move into the last eight with a 9-5 victory.
Higginson hit back from 7-1 down overnight to 7-4 before Robertson recovered his composure.
Robertson admitted: “I played a silly shot when I was 7-0 up last night. I thought it was showtime.
“Things started to go wrong today and Andrew played fantastically well, but I still had a big lead and even if it had gone 8-8 I would have felt comfortable and confident.
“In a way it was good to be tested, rather than just breezing through my first two matches.”