MARK ALLEN booked his place in the Cazoo Champion of Champions semi-finals with a 6-2 victory over Ali Carter on Monday evening.
The Northern Irishman followed up his 4-1 win over Jimmy White in the afternoon to progress from Group 4 in the tournament at Bolton’s Toughsheet Community Stadium.
Allen, 37, raced into a 3-0 lead over Carter with the help of century breaks in the first and third frames – opening with a break of 135 in less than 10 minutes.
The second frame was much tighter, before the colours fell kindly for Allen to clean up and he ran out winner by 71-42. A break of 104 then sealed the third frame.
Carter found his rhythm in frame four as two confident breaks helped him to a 112-4 win, but a crisp 70 break in the fifth frame restored Allen’s three-frame cushion. He moved to within one frame of victory when he took the next 71-36.
Allen, the 2022 UK Champion and World Grand Prix winner, had to wait for victory as Carter won the seventh frame with a brilliant 143 clearance. It was the best of the day and the 397th century of his career.
Allen crossed the finish line when he took the next frame with a comfortable 98-5 win.
“I feel like I’ve turned a corner, but I am still not where I want to be,” said Allen. “It would be nice to win a tournament when playing well, and I am getting closer.
“I’ve been working hard on the mental side of my game and I have improved. I am more controlled now.”
Allen was flying home on Tuesday morning to rest and will play the winner of Group 1, which includes defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, on Saturday.
In the afternoon’s best of seven frame matches, the curtain raiser saw Allen beat White in the battle of the left-handers.
The opening frame saw White bounce back from five “fouls and misses” on the same red after being snookered. The duo were tied on 58 points when “The Whirlwind” won it with a great pot of the black.
Veteran White, a 500-1 outsider, struggled with the speed of the table and that was to be his only highlight as Allen ran away with it, winning the second frame with a break of 76 and the third with a break of 84, before edging a tight fourth frame 62-45.
By then, “The Pistol” Allen was firing on all cylinders and finished the job with a break of 108 to clinch victory.
In the other Group match Carter, 44, from Essex, was appearing in this tournament for the first time since 2016, having qualified by winning the German Masters. He pulled of something of a surprise in when he beat Mark Selby 4-3.
Carter took the opening frame 75-34, and “The Captain” was in control of the second before missing a straightforward pink into the middle, allowing Selby to level with a narrow win of 65-56.
There was no joking around from “The Jester” as Selby took a 2-1 lead thanks to a break which ended just short of a century when he missed a difficult yellow.
An early foul in frame four when Selby potted the cueball allowed Carter to build a 48 break, and then return to win the frame with a second break of 76 which cleared the table and levelled the tie.
It was then Carter’s turn to pot the cueball when he was 35-0 ahead and Selby stepped up to take the frame 87-35 and lead 3-2.
Carter ensured the match went to a deciding frame when he won the sixth with the first ton of the tie, clocking up an impressive 121. He then clinched victory by taking the final frame 83-47.
Tomorrow sees world champion Luca Brecel take on European Masters winner Barry Hawkins before British Open winner Mark Williams faces Welsh Open champion Robert Milkins live on ITV4 in the UK.
There are still a limited number of tickets available across the week, starting from £15 a session. Secure your ticket here.