Mark Allen wasn’t completely at his free-flowing best, but he was able to overcome a spirited John Higgins 6-2 in the Champion of Champions semi-final in Bolton, qualifying for the final where he will face Judd Trump, who beat Barry Hawkins on Friday.
After a nervy opening littered with safety shots, it was Higgins who missed a long pot after an excellent Allen safety. But the Scot was to seize first blood, sweeping up the loose balls in the latter part of the frame and finishing with the black.
The second frame started just as tentatively from both men, but it was Allen who made the breakthrough, with an excellent long pot down the table. He built his break nicely, sinking an excellent ball to the bottom-right corner before following it up with a brilliant strike into the middle pocket to bring up a 73 contribution that propelled him to parity.
Higgins fought back at the start of the third with early scoreboard pressure, putting away an easy red and a yellow, before screwing in an excellent red off two cushions to record a 27.
However, a missed long pot gave Allen the chance to get on the board, and the world No. 4 gobbled up the opportunity, going ahead with a well-judged blue before sweeping up the reds, cruising through the colours to go up 91-27, nudging ahead to take the third frame.
A rapid start from Allen in the fourth gave the Northern Irishman a 25-0 lead, but a missed cut on the black into the middle pocket gave Higgins an opening, which he duly took with an exceptional 68 break, coasting through the reds before making the blue and pink to even the scores at 2-2.
The fifth began tensely, but Higgins finally clawed the momentum back into his favour, but he had a shocker trying to pot the blue, skewing a straight pot into the jaw to let his opponent back into it.
After a mammoth tactical battle, it was Allen who took the frame with a sublime double on the pink, going up 75-41.
Higgins put the disappointment of the previous frame behind him as he started the sixth well, racking up a 20 break, but Allen’s run of 107 crushed the Wizard of Wishaw’s hopes, with the world No. 4 sealing the frame with a pink, following it up with the final red, blue and remaining colours to secure the first century of the match.
Higgins started positively once more in the next with a long pot into the bottom right to go 32-0 up, but he struggled to capitalise on the opportunities some sloppy play from Allen were giving him, as the Scot committed a couple of fouls.
Allen drew ahead after Higgins missed a simple pot into the bottom right, and the Northern Irishman swept up to take the frame with a 49 break.
With momentum well and truly on his side, Allen flew out of the blocks in the eighth, developing the reds well and stretching his advantage to 77 to see himself into the final, where he faces long-time rival Trump.
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