Mark Allen reaches World Snooker Championship quarter-finals

Martin McGoran & Mark Staniforth


MARK Allen needed just one frame to clinch his place in the quarter-finals of the Cazoo World Snooker Championship at the Crucible in Sheffield.

A devasating middle session of his best-of-25 match with Stuart Bingham on Friday left Allen 12-4 up overnight and he duly completed the win at the first attempt.

The Antrim man had scored heavily in Thursday evening’s opening session but still only led 5-3, but his dominance reaped greater rewards on Friday as breaks of 72, 53, 75, 63, 65, 97 and 51 saw him win seven of the eight frames against the 2015 World champion.

He could have won the match with a session to spare but Bingham fired in the highest break of the session, 103, to extend the match to Saturday morning. 

Ronnie O’Sullivan shrugged off an extraordinary act of self-sabotage by opponent Hossein Vafaei to deliver a potential knockout blow in the opening session of their so-called grudge match.

O’Sullivan racked up his 200th Crucible century as part of a ruthless riposte to Vafaei’s pre-match barbs, while the Iranian did himself no favours by smashing the balls from his first break-off in an ill-judged reaction to perceived disrespect shown to him by O’Sullivan performing the same shot in their last meeting two years ago.

Vafaei’s blast cued up O’Sullivan to mop up with a break of 78 and the defending champion went on to fashion a 6-2 overnight advantage in their second-round clash, leaving him an opportunity to wrap up victory with a session to spare when they resume on Saturday afternoon.

The Iranian was accused of “stupidity” and “disrespecting the sport” by a shocked Steve Davis in the BBC studio, while another former world champion, Shaun Murphy, labelled Vafaei’s antics “an embarrassment” and “completely self-inflicted”.

Vafaei had launched an extraordinary verbal assault on O’Sullivan in the wake of his first-round win over Ding Junhui last Sunday, alluding to an incident in their German Masters qualifying match in 2021.

The Iranian accused O’Sullivan of “disrespect” for smashing open the balls from his break-off shot in the final frame of that match, which Vafaei won 5-0. Vafaei added: “He (O’Sullivan) is such a nice person when he is asleep.”

As snooker grudge matches go, it was not exactly at the level of Cliff Thorburn lamping Alex Higgins in a back room at the 1983 Irish Open, nor volatile Australian Quinten Hann offering his opponent Andy Hicks out for a post-frame fight in 2004.

But, in front of a raucous Crucible crowd, MC Rob Walker did his best to cue up the clash like a heavyweight slugfest by announcing O’Sullivan, boxing-style, as the “reigning, defending champion of the wooorld.”

Vafaei offered a wry smile which was not returned by his opponent as they briefly touched gloves, and a steely-faced O’Sullivan proceeded to ruthlessly capitalise on a mistake from the Iranian to rack up a break of 78 and win the first frame.

O’Sullivan cashed in on his opponent’s moment of madness with another break of 78 in frame two and although Vafaei pulled himself together to win frame three, compiling a break of 64, O’Sullivan won the next four to extend his advantage to 6-1.

Vafaei ended a tumultuous session on something of a high when he capitalised on a missed pink from O’Sullivan with a gutsy clearance of 58 to arrest some of the damage.