Ding Junhui is just four frames away from winning a fourth Cazoo UK Championship title having built a 6-2 lead over Mark Allen in the first session of the final in York.
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China’s Ding has been by far the stronger player so far, making three centuries as he pulled away from 2-1 to 6-1. They resume at 7pm with Allen, who has made several errors at key moments, needing to win eight of the last 11 frames. First to ten takes the famous trophy and a record £250,000 top prize, which would be a career high pay-day for either player.
Ding won this tournament in 2005, 2009 and 2019 and is looking to become the fourth player to lift the trophy on four or more occasions, after Ronnie O’Sullivan (seven titles), Steve Davis (six) and Stephen Hendry (five), putting him ahead of all-time greats John Higgins and Neil Robertson who have three UK titles apiece.
He is playing in his 21st ranking final and has won 14 of the previous 20. Victory would give him a first piece of silverware since he beat Stephen Maguire in the 2019 final in York – in fact prior to this week he had reached only one ranking event semi-final in that three-year spell. He is currently number 38 in the world so this run at the Barbican is a remarkable return to form for the 35-year-old, who will be 19th if he loses the final and tenth if he wins.
The Sheffield-based cueman had to win two qualifying matches just to make it to the Barbican – and is aiming to become the first qualifier to capture the title since his own triumph in 2005. The top prize would earn him a place at the Cazoo Masters in January – click here for the draw for Alexandra Palace.
Ding has won nine of their 13 previous meetings, though Allen has won both of their previous finals, at the 2009 Jiangsu Classic and 2013 Ruhr Open.
Antrim’s 36-year-old Allen is aiming to win this event for the first time, having lost his two previous finals in 2011 against Judd Trump and 2018 against Ronnie O’Sullivan. Victory would double his tally of Triple Crown titles, having won the Masters in 2018.
The left-hander is playing in his 16th ranking final and has won seven of his previous 15. This is his third ranking final in succession; he was runner-up at the Cazoo British Open then won the Northern Ireland Open. Regardless of the result today, he climbs from ninth to fifth in the world rankings. The winner of today’s final will also take top spot on the one-year ranking list.
Allen had a scoring chance in the opening frame but missed a red to a top corner on 24, and Ding took it with a run of 52. A break of 70 doubled his lead, and he had first chance in frame three, only to run out of position on 36. Allen later got the better of a safety battle on the yellow as he halved the deficit.
Ding pulled away with breaks of 126 and 135 to lead 4-1. Allen had several chances in frame six, notably over-cutting the final blue to a top corner when he led 53-49. Ding slotted in blue, pink and black to extend his lead, then continued to turn the screw as a run 102 of made it 6-1. A break of 79 in the last frame of the session raised Allen’s hopes of a fight-back tonight.