John Higgins clinched the final two frames of the afternoon session to leave his Northern Ireland Open final with Mark Allen all square at 4-4.
The Scot struggled for momentum in an error-strewn display – a far cry from his semi-final demolition of Yan Bingtao – but a sensational clearance under pressure in the eighth frame saw him restore parity.
Allen looked set to take a two-frame lead into Sunday’s evening session in the best-of-17 encounter, but broke down on 58 in the final frame when leading 4-3. A stalemate soon ensued on a loose red, with both players tapping behind it out of concern of two other reds hovering near pockets.
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With the referee indicating a re-rack unless the stand-off ended, Higgins attempted a double. Although he missed, his bravery was rewarded by the red running safe – and he made no mistake with his next pot attempt, arrowing a tricky red into the bottom right pocket.
The Scot still had work to do, but a mesmerising 55 clearance – which Ronnie O’Sullivan labelled the best he had ever seen in the Eurosport studio – saw him keep his title hopes firmly alive.
Allen is still poised to swoop the £5,000 prize for highest break in the tournament after making a 147 maximum in the qualifiers.
The 35-year-old knocked out three-time defending champion Judd Trump en route to the final.
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