Selby withstands Allen fightback to set up Brecel battle in Crucible final
Mark Selby will play Luca Brecel in the World Championship final after battling past Mark Allen 17-15 in a late-night Crucible thriller.
Selby withstood a brave fightback from Allen, who recovered from 16-10 down to trail by a single frame in a hard-fought encounter, to eventually advance to his sixth Sheffield showpiece, where he will face Brecel on Sunday.
The Jester will now be looking to land his fifth title, which would move him within one of Steve Davis and Ray Reardon – and two of the record tally of seven shared by Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry.
Meanwhile, Allen narrowly missed the opportunity to reach his maiden Crucible final, while he would have also climbed to world number one for the first time.
Selby told BBC Sport: “If I was to come out on the winning side over the next two days, it’s probably got to go down as my greatest win I’ve had – even in front of the first one when I won against O’Sullivan [in 2014].
“Some of the frames, I kept getting to 30-odd and I wasn’t really missing, but I was running out of position, and then the snooker gods just don’t forgive you.
“Mark played some great stuff to come back. He could’ve easily let his head go down at 16-10.
“From 16-10, you’ve got to play no-miss snooker and every time he needed to pot a long ball, he did it.
“He’s such a great competitor. At 16-15, he probably goes favourite because he’s got the momentum, but I managed to hold myself together to make a good 60-odd break.”
Recovering from 6-3 down for a narrow 7-6 overnight lead, Selby stretched his advantage to 10-7 after winning three of the opening four frames with runs of 63, 112 and 53 along the way.
However, the Jester saw an opportunity for 11-7 go begging, with contributions of 58 and 92 helping world number three Allen take three of the next four to trail by just one again at 11-10.
It was one-way traffic upon the contest’s resumption in the final session, Selby reeling off five frames on the spin with breaks of 64 and 57, while a superb 103 clearance put him on the brink of victory at 16-10.
But Allen – the winner of the Northern Ireland Open, UK Championship and World Grand Prix this season – refused to roll over, dominating the next three frames to reduce the deficit to 16-13.
Selby then squandered numerous chances to kill the match. The Jester rattled the brown and red in consecutive frames, enabling his opponent to clear and close the gap to 16-15.
Nevertheless, the four-time champion drew on every ounce of his mental reverse, and a break of 64 in the next eventually proved enough to get him over the line.
“I didn’t have any form at all in that match,” Allen reflected on BBC Sport. “I was really poor from start to finish, but I never gave up and gave myself a chance at the end.
“I didn’t really get much of a look in that last frame, but I put Mark under a bit of pressure. I just felt like I underperformed, I just didn’t play well enough.
“I’m disappointed right now but, on a whole, the season’s been really good. I’m up to my highest ever ranking, I’m back to the one-table setup at the Crucible – there are a couple of boxes I’ve ticked that I wanted to do. The signs are good for next season.”