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Mark Allen's hopes left hanging at Northern Ireland Open

Mark Allen lines up a shot during last night’s quarter-final clash with Anthony Hamilton. Picture by Matt Bohill
Martin McGoran

MARK Allen’s hopes of a home victory at the Coral Northern Ireland Open were hanging by a thread last night as he made an apprehensive start to his quarter-final match against Anthony Hamilton at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast.

The Antrim man lost the first three frames to the world number 76 from Nottingham and although he got one back before the mid-session interval, Hamilton took the next to go three up with four to play Allen then won the next frame to claw it back to 4-2.

Allen, who only got through his last 16 clash with Gary Wilson after midnight on Thursday evening, struggled to find his rhythm early on, while his opponent, playing without the pressure of an expectant crowd, settled well to take the first frame with a break of 96.

The second was scrappy and went right to the black with Hamilton taking it for a 2-0 lead and then following up with a 78 to move three clear.

Allen finally got on the board before the mid-session interval with a break of 72 to the green to give him some hope but after losing frame five he was facing a long road back.

The winner will face England’s Barry Hawkins in the last four. He continued to impress in his 5-2 victory over Welshman Michael White, who himself had shown fine form throughout the week.

Hawkins, who had lost just one frame in four matches up until yesterday, never looked in trouble as he took an early 2-0 lead before White got on the board. The Londoner restored his two-frame advantage at the mid-session interval, and on the restart moved to within a frame of the last four with the first significant break of the match, a 60.

A run of 59 in the next appeared to have sealed the deal but White showed some fight with a colours clearance to pinch the frame. The Welshman had two good opportunities to put further pressure on the world number 11 in frame seven but after he missed a red to the middle, Hawkins stepped in to deliver the killer blow with a break of 70.

The other semi-final today will see Kyren Wilson take on either Iran’s Hossein Vafaei Ayouri or England’s Mark King, who were level at 2-2 last night.

Wilson, conqueror of Ronnie O’Sullivan in the match of the tournament on Thursday evening, saw off Mark Williams 5-4 in a high quality encounter yesterday afternoon.

There was never more than a frame between the pair with Wilson drawing first blood only for the Welshman to reply with runs of 86 and 68 to nose ahead 2-1.

Wilson, though, looks destined for greater things and the composure he showed in responding to O’Sullivan’s hat-trick of centuries in the previous round, shone through again as breaks of 91 and 95 either side of the interval put him back in front. Williams levelled again at 3-3 with a 68 only for a 69 to put Wilson back in front. Frame eight went to the colours and Wilson missed a relatively straightforward frame ball blue to allow Williams to step in to clear and force a decider.

An early run of 48 gave the Englishman an advantage in the decider and he was never to relinquish it.

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