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Comeback king Mark Allen stuns Ding Junhui to claim UK Championship crown

Jonathan Davies in UK Championship

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Allen captured his second ranking title of the season in York

Mark Allen claimed his first UK Championship title after producing a stunning fightback from 6-1 down to deny Ding Junhui 10-7 in the final.

The Pistol pulled off the biggest comeback in a UK final since compatriot Alex Higgins overturned a 7-0 deficit to beat Steve Davis 16-15 in 1983, as he pocketed £250,000 for the biggest pay day of his career.

Runner-up to Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2011 and 2018 respectively, Allen made it third time lucky at the York Barbican as he recovered from a poor start by winning nine out of 10 frames to stun three-time champion Ding.

The form player of the season, the former Masters champion landed his second title in the space of four weeks having also claimed the Northern Ireland Open crown, as well as completing the second part of a potential career Triple Crown.

“It’s absolutely amazing. I don’t really know how I’ve done it if I’m honest. I didn’t play very well most of the week,” he told BBC.

“I was struggling and was just trying to stay as positive as possible in my seat. No matter what the score was today, all I said to myself was ‘can I win the next frame?’ and ultimately, the answer is always yes.

“So, I was never getting ahead of myself and I was just waiting for that chance at the end. It was a bit of a long drawn-out frame to finish, but I potted some good balls to clear up.

“To beat Ding in a best-of-19 from 6-1 down, it’s one of my best ever wins because he’s an absolute legend.

“I’ve won two ranking tournaments in the last three – and lost in the final of the other one – so I’m doing things right and I don’t want to change anything, I just want to continue to work hard.”

Appearing in his fourth UK final – having triumphed in 2005, 2009 and 2019 – Ding settled quickly with runs of 52 and 70, before back-to-back centuries of 126 and 135 opened a 4-1 advantage.

The Dragon, who was aiming to snatch the last remaining place at the Masters, then snatched a tight sixth frame on the black, and stretched his lead to 6-1 with a brilliant break of 102.

Since 1993 – the first year the final was decided over the best of 19 frames – only Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stephen Maguire had inflicted 10-1 routs, doing so against Ken Doherty (2001) and David Gray (2004) respectively.

Although, Allen avoided joining that list as he stopped the rot by closing the afternoon session with a timely 79.

The Pistol had fought from behind in all four of his matches earlier in the week, defeating Jordan Brown, Kyren Wilson, Sam Craigie and Jack Lisowski in the process.

And the rejuvenated world number nine, who recently began working with sports psychologist Paul Gaffney, went into overdrive upon the final’s resumption, turning the contest on its head with runs of 60, 93, 132, 56, 59 and 109 to lead 8-6.

A shellshocked Ding ended a seven-frame losing streak with a neat clearance of 105, but Allen controlled the 16th to move one from victory, which he sealed with a wonderful plant on the penultimate red that paved the way to a calm 35 clearance to the pink.

“I struggled at the start and Ding punished me heavily. He scored ridiculously well in the first session. I just hung on and hung on and scraped the last frame,” he added.

“I don’t know what happened tonight. I won a good first frame with 60, and that was probably as good a break as I made all day. Then all of a sudden, I felt so good. I felt like my safety went up a level, I was forcing some errors and I started to score.

“In my dressing room, I was like ‘I’m not going to lose from here’ and I don’t mean that to sound disrespectful. I’ve just felt so confident in my game.”