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UK Championship final preview: In-form Mark Allen aims for York glory

Snooker fans are in for a treat when Ding Junhui and Mark Allen clash in the final of the UK Championship.

Ding is looking to land his fourth UK Championship crown, but it would be the Chinese Sensation’s first title since he lifted this very trophy in 2019. Allen, twice a beaten UK finalist, is looking to get his hands on the title for the first time and the Antrim ace does have the experience of seven ranking event victories to call on.

Ding back where he belongs

Ding is almost the forgotten potter of snooker and it has been a while since we have seen the 35-year-old contesting in the latter stages of the tournament. The Yixing potter's most recent tournament victory came in the 2019 renewal of this competition, and that is also the last time he made a ranking event final.

Prior to that a 2017 World Open victory is the only other time the Chinese Sensation has troubled the judge, but the 2016 World Championship finalist remains a top-class cueman.

Perhaps Ding doesn’t have the desire to go all out for glory in some of the lesser tournaments on the snooker calendar, but the UK Championship is a Triple Crown event and that clearly brings out the best in the 35-year-old.

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Allen riding the crest of a wave

Incredibly Allen has made the final of the last three ranking events. The Pistol was beaten 10-7 by Ryan Day in the final of the British Open last month, but the 36-year-old more than made up for that disappointment when claiming the Northern Ireland Open later in October.

That made it back-to-back Belfast titles for the Antrim Ace, and here he is again, with just one match standing between him and a first UK Championship title.

It’s been a brilliant couple of months for Allen, but the Northern Irishman trailed Jack Lisowski 5-3 in their semi-final and it didn’t look like he would be 10/11 shot to lift the crown at that point.

Allen’s 6-5 victory over Jackpot was the match of the tournament so far and the victory was sealed in dramatic fashion. Lisowski had chances in the final frame, but it was the Pistol that kept things together to clear the colours and claim a spot in the final.

Expect a final full of big breaks

The strength of Ding and Allen is their cueball control and break-building. The two UK Championship finalists play in a similar fashion and their first intention is to get almost the balls and start scoring.

That should lead to some conventional table set-ups, and fewer safety battles, and there should be an opportunity for some high-quality one-visit snooker. Both cuemen appear to be playing well enough to hit some big breaks in the final.

Allen made knocks of 113 and 105 against Jordan Brown and followed that up with a 105 and 108 against Sam Craigie. The Pistol was second best for much of his semi-final against Lisowski, but the Antrim ace still hit a break of 115 and there’s more time to find a scoring rhythm in a best-of-19-frame final.

Ding hit a fantastic 131 break in a 6-0 demolition of Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals and prior to that the Chinese Sensation knocked in a 118 in his last-16 contest against Jamie Clarke.

The Yixing potter made breaks of 105 and 122 against Barry Hawkins in his opening contest at the Barbican Centre and the 35-year-old remains one of the heaviest scorers in snooker when on song.

The match prices suggest a closely-contested UK Championship final and that should lead to plenty of frames for the big breaks to flow. The total centuries line has been set at 3.5 and at 8/11 it could pay to go over that mark.

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