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Sensational Zhao and brilliant Brecel through to UK Championship final

Jonathan Davies in UK Championship

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Barry Hawkins v Zhao Xintong live stream | UK Championship 2021 Semi-Final preview

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Luca Brecel v Zhao Xintong live stream | UK Championship 2021 final preview

Zhao comfortably put Hawkins to the sword in York on Saturday (Zac Goodwin/PA Wire/PA Images)

Zhao Xintong will play Luca Brecel in the UK Championship final after a comprehensive 6-1 rout of Barry Hawkins on Saturday.

Zhao and Brecel produced remarkable performances at the York Barbican Centre – the latter overcoming Kyren Wilson 6-4 – to set up what will be the first showpiece in this event contested by two players ranked outside the world’s top 16.

World number 26 Zhao arrived in the semi-finals having overcome three-time champion John Higgins in a deciding frame earlier in the week, before reeling off six on the bounce against Jack Lisowski on Friday.

He built on that momentum as he came flying out of the blocks with two breaks of 78 and 100, before another 78 after a poor miss by Hawkins opened up a commanding 4-0 lead at the interval.

The Hawk had only dropped eight frames on the way to reaching his first UK semi-final.

Targeting a third appearance in a Triple Crown showpiece, the Hawk finally stopped the rot with a break of 65 in frame five.

However, it proved a false dawn for the three-time ranking event winner; Zhao responding with runs of 74 and 81 to sprint over the finish line.

He will play world number 40 Brecel in only the second UK final to be contested by two overseas players, after Neil Robertson and Liang Wenbo locked horns for the crown six years ago.

The Belgian produced four centuries as he saw off Wilson in a high-quality encounter earlier on.

Both players looked sharp early on; clearances of 130 and 102 by Brecel sandwiching Wilson’s 121.

The Warrior then recovered from 59-0 down with a wonderful plant paving the way to a 69 clearance that squared things up at the interval.

Fresh from his dramatic quarter-final win over Ronnie O’Sullivan, the world number five edged ahead in a tactical fifth frame, but his opponent responded with 102 to level once more.

Further runs of 97 and 80 moved the Bullet to the brink of victory at 5-3 up.

Although Wilson stayed alive with 83, Brecel was undeterred and a magnificent contribution of 112 sealed an emotional win.

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