Mark Allen’s quest to defend his home Northern Ireland Open title is still on following his dominant 6-2 win over Neil Robertson in the semi-finals.
Robertson arrived in Belfast with a perfect record in semi-finals against Allen, but the home favourite snapped that sequence at the Waterfront Hall.
Allen said after his win over Xiao Guodong in the quarter-finals that he had ticked a box by getting to the one-table stage and being announced as the defending champion. After his impressive win over Robertson, the goal will be to topple Zhou Yuelong and get his hands on the Alex Higgins Trophy for a second time.
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Robertson found a couple of trademark long reds in the opening frame, but failed to take advantage and a nuggety break from Allen was enough to take him into the lead.
The Australian breezed into the semi-finals for the loss of only five frames from as many matches, but took time to settle against Allen.
Allen had a big chance to move two to the good, but a red wriggled in the jaws when in full command - and Robertson picked off a break of 56 to draw level.
Robertson still did not look settled and a containing safety in frame three did anything but, as it handed Allen a shot at a red to left middle. It was a tough red, but it dropped into the heart of the pocket and a break of 47 ultimately proved enough to take the frame.
Ronnie O’Sullivan said before the match that there were no weaknesses to Robertson’s game, but his safety play was below par early on and he left a red on for Allen when running back to baulk.
Allen rammed the red into the middle of the pocket and stroked in a century to head into the interval with a spring in his step.
It could be argued the break came at a poor time for Allen, but it did not check his momentum. He got going in the fifth with a brilliant plant, one which was off-straight and he had to fashion from long distance, and it set up his fifth century of the week, a total clearance of 136, for a 4-1 lead.

‘What a brave shot’ - Allen nails long-range plant against Robertson at Northern Ireland Open

After three barren frames, Robertson was in need of some table time and a response. He got both in the sixth as after Allen left an escape from a snooker well short, he mopped up a break of 68 to cut the gap to two.
Momentum ebbs and flows in snooker and it seemed to be swinging Robertson’s way when he fluked a red at the start of the seventh which allowed him to lay a devilish snooker.
Allen failed to make the escape and it let Robertson in, but he never got prime position and missed a pink with the rest.
The table was not set for an obvious counter but Allen pulled off a string of brilliant shots and a break of 60 helped him get to within one frame of victory, with a fluked green putting a seal on the frame, which was greeted with an almighty roar.
Robertson worked a 40-point advantage in the eighth, but lost a lengthy safety exchange and Allen rolled in a tough black and red to get up and running.
He ran out of position and Robertson looked certain to pull a frame back when knocking in the final red, but Allen got back in to take the colours and force a re-spot.
Allen played a series of nerveless shots and eked out a chance, which he rolled into the yellow pocket to book his place in the final - to the delight of a raucous crowd in Belfast.
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The Home Nations series is back with the Northern Ireland Open and it is live and exclusive on discovery+. You can also watch Seventh Heaven, a two-part show about Ronnie O’Sullivan’s historic World Championship win last season, on demand now.
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