UK Championship review: Stephen Maguire beats Mark Allen 6-0; Ding Junhui too good for Yan Bingtao

Stephen Maguire produced a devastating display, one of the best of his career, to whitewash good friend Mark Allen and reach the UK Championship final.

Fifteen years ago, Maguire waltzed to this title with a 10-1 victory over David Gray in the final, and this was a performance of equal quality as he gave Allen very little chance to get a foothold in the game.

Maguire dominated the first two frames with breaks of 95 and 129, and while Allen ran out of position to take the third, the Scot was still ruthless in turning that frame around as he raced to a 4-0 interval lead - at which point he'd missed just one pot.

A tight fifth frame went Maguire's way after a 50 break, before the Scot doubled that with a fitting century to complete a victory which reminded us of what he once looked set to achieve in the sport.

"That's the best performance I've done... maybe ever, for years anyway," said Maguire. "The balls split nice for me, I potted a few nice shots - it makes the game that little bit easier."

Allen has now lost five semi-finals this season, but whereas he was luckless in the Champion of Champions and below his best in the International Championship, here he simply met an opponent performing at an extraordinarily high level.

"I'm a bit shellshocked really, I didn't really feel as though I was involved in that game," said Allen. "He was flawless from start to finish. All credit to him, he played superb and fully deserved it."

Maguire, who has been returning to fitness following an ankle injury, lost a tight last-16 game at the Northern Ireland Open recently and has stepped up several levels in York, where he's through to the final.

Sunday's denouement is made all the more fascinating by the man who Maguire will face - Ding Junhui.

It's been a similar tale of frustration for the 32-year-old, who succeeded Maguire as champion here in 2005 in what many predicted to be the dawning of a new era in which both played a key role.

Ding went on to win the title again five years later but he too had struggled prior to York, where on Saturday he beat Yan Bingtao 6-2 to deny his teenage counterpart the chance to win his second ranking event of the season.

There were no real fireworks here, but Ding scored heavily when among the balls from the very first frame, breaks of 68, 85 and 60 putting him into a 3-0 lead.

After the next two frames were shared, Bingtao produced the highest break of the match, a run of 95 to get within two, but Ding was soon back in business with his fourth and fifth half-centuries to run out a convincing winner.

Coming into the tournament, Ding looked an unlikely contender despite winning it twice before. He'd been knocked out in the first round of the English Open, the China Championship and the Northern Ireland Open, and hadn't made a ranking final in almost two years.

But an impressive victory over former mentor Ronnie O'Sullivan provided the springboard for a return to something like his best and, while not required to call upon such fluency here, there was an air of confidence to the display which had been so badly lacking.

"I put him under pressure in the first few frames," said Ding. "He's young, good talent, and I've been practicing with him a lot.

"Great feeling - I like the UK Championship. I'm very excited. I need to win - I haven't (won) for two seasons. I need to win to get the confidence back.

"I just want to win. That's my dream, to win now."

Ahead of the first event of snooker's Triple Crown, the dream for many was to see Trump face O'Sullivan in the final.

Instead, we're presented with a prospect no less tantalising: two of the sport's most naturally gifted players, each in his own way an underachiever, seeking an unlikely return to the winner's circle in the very event which put them on the map.

Watch the UK Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with analysis from Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White

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