Mark Allen wasted little time in completing a 9-2 demolition of Mark Selby to reach the final of the Coral Tour Championship.
Leading 7-1 heading into the final session, Allen’s advantage was down to five frames after Selby took the first thanks to a 71 break, his only half-century of the match. But Allen took the next two to ensure he’ll be fresh for Friday’s final against Stephen Maguire, who beat Judd Trump on Wednesday.
Allen came flying out of the blocks in the second semi-final, and from the moment he rolled in a precise long red in the opening frame, Selby would have to wait more than an hour and three-quarters to register himself.
Indeed it took him until frame four for the Leicester man to pot a ball, the only points scored before that coming via an intentional, showboating in-off as Allen took the second. Breaks of 92 and 76 either side of it made it 3-0, and he took the final frame of the opening mini-session, too.
Selby's hope was that Allen would find his momentum checked by the short break, and so it proved. The trouble was, Selby was in no position to capitalise, his radar way off from range and his control of the cue-ball distinctly lacking. Even as things developed into the sort of scrap he favours, he was found wanting.
Although there was briefly hope he'd get out of things with a 6-2 deficit, Selby's afternoon was summed up by his failure to take a golden opportunity in the final frame. Instead, he was drawn into another safety battle, and it was another defeat as he failed to make contact with a red, handed Allen a free-ball, and surely waved goodbye to all hope.
Upon resumption, Selby kept his slim hopes alive for about the length of the frame he won, after which Allen finished the job off. In truth, he had looked the winner from the first pot of the match.
Allen began stylishly with a break of 92, followed by runs of 54 and 76 to move swiftly into a 3-0 lead. At last, Selby got on the board with a simple pot in the fifth frame, but his improving fortunes did not last and, inside 40 minutes, he was back in his dressing room having lost each of the four opening frames.
Returning from that brief interval, it was clear that Allen was not quite so sharp. Still, Selby was lacking, and an easy task to win the frame was made to look anything but. In the end he was forced into sending the cue ball around the table; it cannoned the black and knocked it in, the foul and seven points a kick in the teeth as Allen went 5-0 ahead.
Frame six went a similar way, Selby making 44 before missing a mid-length blue as he again lost the white. Allen's raggedness was underlined by the fact he failed to really make the three-time world champion pay, but he was soon at the table again and whether by one bite or two, it was another frame in the bag.
Selby was now staring at the ignominy of a session whitewash but, true to form, kept grinding even though it was clear things were not working. In frame seven he chiselled away, or so it seemed, for just 13 points. Then came another hard-fought break of only 23, only this time Allen was himself profligate and missed an easy pink to gift-wrap the frame for Selby.
Even so he made a meal of things, missing pink to leave Allen with a chance to scrap for snookers, but after a fluked yellow when escaping one of them, finally the Jester - smiling on occasion, albeit through gritted teeth - was on the scoreboard. It had been one hour and 46 minutes of toil, his reward finally coming in the shape of a solitary, messy frame won.
Hopes of a fightback surely rested on his ability to take the final frame of the session, but Allen was soon among the balls and plotting a path to a potential 147. Alas he came unstuck when disturbing a cluster of reds, scoring 48 and leaving the door ajar for Selby.
But as if to confirm the outcome before it is made official, Selby somehow blundered again, first via a poor positional shot, and then by missing the reds entirely when playing a safety shot. He left Allen a free ball, in it went, and the Northern Irishman's score ticked over to seven.
Not even the game's greatest scrapper could make things interesting in the evening, as Allen did what he needed to do. Now, he stands in the way of an overdue ranking title for his friend Maguire, who also has eyes on the Coral Series bonus. Organisers and fans alike will hope that the final exceeds the standard of two modest semis, for all that Allen was excellent for a vital hour on Thursday afternoon.
Daily schedule & results
- Matches played over two sessions, beginning at 1330 BST and 1900 BST
- Quarter-finals and semi-finals best of 17 frames; final best of 19
- * denotes latest score between sessions
Saturday June 20
- Neil Robertson 5-9 Stephen Maguire
Sunday June 21
- Judd Trump 9-4 John Higgins
Monday June 22
- Mark Selby 9-6 Yan Bingtao
Tuesday June 23
- Shaun Murphy 8-9 Mark Allen
Wednesday June 24
- Judd Trump 6-9 Stephen Maguire
Thursday June 25
- Mark Selby 2-9 Mark Allen
Friday June 26
- Stephen Maguire v Mark Allen
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