UK Championship review: John Higgins and Mark Allen into last eight

John Higgins battled past Stuart Bingham in York
John Higgins battled past Stuart Bingham in York

A review of the action on day eight of the UK Championship as John Higgins and Mark Allen progressed the quarter-final stage in York.

Higgins grits his teeth to see off Bingham

John Higgins progressed to the quarter-finals of the UK Championship for the first time since 2016 but only after a gruelling and dramatic match with Stuart Bingham, the four-time world champion eventually prevailing 6-4.

In a match that saw its moments of brilliance to match periods of low-quality fare, particularly in the early part of the afternoon, both players were guilty of a number of unforced errors but Higgins once again proved the master in such circumstances, grinding his way to a victory having watched Bingham seemingly close in on a 5-4 lead.

However, an untimely interruption from a mobile phone ringing in the audience put Bingham off his stride when looking well set in frame nine and when he missed the following pot, Higgins stepped in in typically ruthless fashion to steal the frame and turn the contest on its head.

Bingham was the stronger of the two in the early exchanges, inching his way into a 2-0 lead having dominated a couple of scrappy frames before Higgins eventually burst into life with a break of 93 in frame three.

The Scot ought to have levelled the scores when handed a golden opportunity following a lengthy and error-strewn frame four but he couldn't finish the job and Bingham mopped up the colours to claim pole position at the mid-session interval.

The break certainly did Higgins plenty of good and despite Bingham having good chances in frames five and six, Higgins began to find his touch and levelled the scores with impressive contributions of 78 and 58.

When the following two frames were shared, Bingham producing a brilliant run of 100 and Higgins a break of 61, a grandstand finish appeared inevitable with both players now hitting their stride but the real drama would unfold only moments later.

Having looked in complete control when well placed in the balls in frame nine, Bingham appeared certain to inch back into the lead until a telephone ring in the crowd reverberated around the York Barbican.

Visibly frustrated, but not perturbed, Bingham addressed the cue ball for a second time but the damage had been done, his concentration broken, and when he missed the relatively simple pot Higgins was quick to capitalise.

With Bingham still smarting at the injustice he had been done, Higgins kept his foot on the throat and a break of 50 in frame ten was to prove an ultimately match-winning one as he booked his place in the last eight.

Higgins told the BBC afterwards: "I'm over the moon.

"The guy's phone rang twice when he should have gone 5-4 ahead and I managed to nick it.

"The two of us were really below par. I wasn't competing in the early part of the game.

"Stuart will be kicking himself. He should have went 4-1 or 5-1 up. I just hung in there and things went my way."

Allen denies Maflin in epic

Last year's runner-up Mark Allen remains firmly on course for a second final in as many years having battled past Kurt Maflin in a terrific match that needed a deciding frame to separate the pair.

It was rough luck on Maflin who had built up a significant advantage in the final frame only to see his chance slip away, Allen calmly clearing the colours before winning the match, one that was played to a brilliant standard throughout, on the final black.

Breaks of 81 and 113 had seen Maflin take the early ascendancy but having fallen 3-1 behind, Allen reeled off three consecutive frames to lead for the first time in the match at 4-3.

Mark Allen
Mark Allen

Runs of 77 and 126 had done the damage for Allen in that impressive burst but when he spurned a golden chance to extend his lead further in frame eight, Maflin levelled the scores before following up with a fabulous 128 in frame nine.

A typically stubborn response of 68 from Allen brought the scores level again and in a final frame that summed up just how closely-fought this absorbing encounter had it been, it was apt that it took until the final black before the two players could finally be separated.

Allen told the BBC: "I am devastated for Kurt.

"He is such a good friend of mine. He is a class act and it's only a matter of time before he breaks through.

"Kurt played well to go 3-1 up and I was proud of how patient I was after the interval. I should have gone 5-3 up then Kurt showed his class to go 5-4 up and you are thinking the worst.

"But maybe a little bit of inexperience at the latter stages of tournaments is all that cost him at the end."

Allen: My ability to thrive under pressure won me the match | UK Championship Snooker

Bingtao blitzes Robertson

The first eight days of this year's UK Championship have already produced some big shocks and Yan Bingtao attained one of the most notable results of the tournament when routing Champion of Champions winner Neil Robertson 6-1.

It was a night to forget for Robertson who could never find any rhythm and Bingtao gave sign of what was to come when taking the opening frame with a break of 66.

Frames two and three were largely forgettable but Bingtao came out on the right side of both to lead 3-0 before adding breaks of 74 and 56 in the fourth frame.

Frame five went the same way but Robertson finally stopped the rot when taking a remarkable sixth frame, earning the four snookers required to keep himself in the match before calmly clearing the table to get his first frame on the board.

Nevertheless, that steal only proved to delay the inevitable as Bingtao finally closed out the match when potting the final black having given Robertson hope when missing match-ball pink moments earlier.

Liang Wenbo was the final winner on day eight, the left-hander overcoming Li Hang 6-4 to book his place in the quarter-finals.

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