MARK ALLEN set up a final showdown with Judd Trump as he overcame John Higgins 6-2 in the semi-final of the Cazoo Champion of Champions.
It was always likely to be an enjoyable and closely contested tie between the two men who were joint fourth favourites before the tournament started, and there was nothing to separate them as they stood 2-2 at the break.
It was a different story when the players returned to the table, however, as a couple of errors proved costly for Higgins, and Allen made it a clean sweep by taking the next four frames.
It promises to be an exciting best of 19 final on Sunday night against World Number 2 Trump, with the winner scooping this year’s prize of £150,000, and the runner-up banking £60,000.
Allen has the better of Judd in head-to-head battles and said: “I’m excited to be playing Judd, he’s the best in the world at the moment but I have a good record against him.
“I am going to enjoy it, I didn’t come her to finish second, and I will have to play really well to beat Judd, but I know I can beat him – and so does he.
“If you had told me three or four weeks ago I’d be in this position I would have laughed because I was in a bad place, but I have been working hard on the right things and my confidence has come back.”
Allen and Higgins last met in the 2021 Northern Ireland Open, when Allen came from 6-8 down to beat the four-time World Champion 9-8, and he had the edge again at Bolton’s Toughsheet Community Stadium.
After a cagey opening it was first blood to Scotsman Higgins with a solid break of 65. World Number 4 Allen then had the crowd on alert for a 147, and although it broke down with a missed black, he took the frame with a 73 break.
Allen, nicknamed The Pistol, won this title in 2020, and took the lead with a break of 91 in the next fame, but it was nip and tuck as Higgins capitalised on a missed black to win with a break of 68.
The first frame after the break was the longest and was one of chess-like safety, which turned when Allen played a brilliant snooker which Higgins needed four attempts to navigate, and it set up the Northern Irishman to take a 3-2 lead. The first century of the semi then made it 4-2 as Allen hit 102.
Higgins, the Wizard of Wishaw, bounced back from more snooker trouble in the next before a costly missed pot let in Allen to win it and move to within one frame of the final. A break of 77 ensured Allen made it into his first final of the season.
Sunday will be Ace in the Pack Trump’s fifth final of the season – and we are barely at the halfway point. He was the pre-tournament favourite and will play his third consecutive Champion of Champions final.
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