The Northern Ireland open up until this season has been a tournament that had not seen Mark Allen in his best light as he openly struggled with the pressure of being the home favourite with all the weight of a country on his shoulders.
This week Mark has looked extremely relaxed and more importantly in complete control of his emotions as he has cruised into the final with some excellent performances including a wonderful maximum break in his first round match against Si Jiahui.
The final Mark Allen vs John Higgins 1st session
A packed Waterfront Arena welcomed home favourite Mark Allen and four time world champion John Higgins into an electric atmosphere and the match did not disappoint.
Mark raced into a 2-0 lead aided by breaks of 49 and 82 and definitely settled the better of the two but with Higgins in the other chair you know it’s only a matter of time before he stamps his class on the match and did exactly that with a classy break of 123 to put his first frame on the board.
The fourth frame started with a lengthy safety battle but it was Higgins who took control by potting an excellent red to the right middle and making a frame winning break of 58 to level the match at 2-2 at the interval.
A cagey frame five saw Higgins miss two good opportunities at the start of the frame but Mark swept in with an excellent long red into the yellow pocket and made a break of 68 to move 3-2 up.
Allen won a scrappy frame 6 to extend his lead to 4-2 but in typical John Higgins fashion he won a tense frame 7 and then made a miracle clearance from 63-0 to level the match at 4-4 going into the evening session.
The final Mark Allen vs John Higgins 2nd session
If this afternoon’s session atmosphere was mesmerising then trying to find the word for this evening’s was impossible because it was absolutely incredible.
You could just feel the electricity in the arena and the first frame of the evening set the tone for an amazing session of snooker.
Higgins had early control of frame 9 with a 49 point lead but an amazing do or die long red from Allen and a superb 70 clearance from the home favourite earned him a 5-4 lead.
Higgins fought back in frame 10 with a solid break of 59 to level the match at 5-5.
In frame 11 Mark potted a wonderful long red off of a loose safety shot from Higgins and made a superb break of 86 to take a 6-5 lead.
Frame 12 was another tense affair and Mark Allen will be rueing a miss to the yellow pocket when he had a 40 point lead as John Higgins swept in with a break of 62 to level the match again at 6-6 at the interval.
Frame 13 was a pivotal changing point in the match as Higgins grabbed the lead with a steely break of 59 and you could the confidence flowing from the 4 time world champion. Higgins took that confident feeling into frame 14 and stroked in a magnificent break of 136 to move within 1 frame of victory.
With the crowd getting right behind the local man Mark Allen dug deep to win frame 15 in two visits to claw within one frame of Higgins in this absolute classic final.
After the way this match has gone we just knew we were destined for a deciding frame and that’s exactly what we got as Mark held is nerve to win frame 16 on the colours to force a decider.
The fitting end to a tremendous week saw Mark Allen hold his nerve to win the most nerve wracking decider you could imagine. A frame the swung both ways Mark held his nerve to seal the most memorable victory.
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