UK Snooker Championship: Mark Allen defeats Ricky Walden in semi-final
Northern Ireland's Mark Allen beat Ricky Walden to reach his first career ranking final at the UK Championship.
Walden captured four frames in succession to hit back from 3-1 down to claim a 5-3 lead over Allen in the first session in York.
But Allen responded by taking the next four and, despite a brave effort from Walden, won 9-7 with a final 70 break.
The 25-year-old faces a meeting in the final on Sunday with Friday's semi-final winner Judd Trump .
DID YOU KNOW?
For the first time since Stephen Maguire won in York in 2004, the semi-final line-up at the UK Championship did not contain a former UK champion
Allen told BBC Sport: "I've been working very hard on my game and it's now paying its due rewards.
"I need to compete with Judd in the final. I've been waiting for a long time to have that handshake in front of the trophy - that's what you play for.
"I think I've played 50% of my game this week and I'm in the final. I think my safety has got me through but if you look at my stats it's not very good.
"Judd has been riding the crest of the wave at the moment and it should be a fantastic match."
Allen, who has beaten Adrian Gunnell, Ali Carter and Marco Fu so far this week, won a scrappy opening frame with a clearance of 24.
Walden immediately levelled in some style, however, even playing the pink left-handed during his century clearance.
“I think I'm mentally strong and when my back is against the wall that is normally when I play my best stuff”
Breaks of 85 and 54 seemed to put Allen in command at 3-1, and he had a golden opportunity to take a three-frame lead in the first frame after the mid-session resumption.
But he went in-off when potting the final green and Walden was soon level after adding the next.
Walden, 29, who beat Ronnie O'Sullivan to win the 2008 Shanghai Masters title as a qualifier, narrowly missed a century in frame seven, his break ending on 98 when a doubled final red bounced out of the jaws in the centre pocket, but his second century of the day earned him a two-frame cushion.
After the break, Allen made a positive start and comfortably took the opening two frames to level, with Walden failing to pot one ball.
In the next Allen missed a difficult red over the middle pocket, but with Walden just needing the brown to take the frame, it ricocheted off the inside of the pocket to gift the Northern Irishman a 62-60 frame win - he punched the air in celebration.
ALLEN'S PREVIOUS RANKING SEMI-FINAL DEFEATS
- 2007 Northern Ireland Trophy
- 2008 Bahrain Championship
- 2009 World Championship
- 2010 China Open
- 2010 UK Championship
Allen played a fantastic safety shot in the 12th after making a run of 64, but controversy followed when the referee was adjudged to have moved a red in line with the corner pocket when re-spotting the pink. The result left Allen to comfortably win his fourth consecutive frame to make it 7-5 before the mid-session break.
Walden fought back with a break of 80, before Allen comfortably took the 14th with a 79 to take the match to 8-6.
Allen remained calm in the 15th and picked off all the loose reds before playing a poor safety shot to let Walden take it 65-54, reducing the deficit to 8-7.
But a risky pot left Walden open in the next frame and Allen seized his chance to take command, closing with a run of 70 to win the frame and the semi-final.
After openly criticising snooker chief Barry Hearn during the tournament, Allen reiterated his stance that he is "entitled to his opinion".
He added: "I think I'm mentally strong and when my back is against the wall I do my best. None of the bad press bothers me, it spurs me on. It may not have been well received but I think I was entitled to my opinion.
"I thought I was going to have to eat my words and it's proved my point that the better players come through in the longer matches."