Snooker: Higgins breaks clear to dominate semi-final

By John Skilbeck at the Crucible

John Higgins swept into a 6-2 lead over struggling Mark Allen as the pair began their battle for a place in the final of the World Championship.

The 33-year-old Scot dominated the first of the four sessions, making a break of 114 in the sixth frame on his way to gaining a comfortable lead. Higgins won the final three frames of the session as surprise semi-finalist Allen struggled.

Higgins is aiming for his third Crucible title and before the match his experience was predicted to be a telling factor, with Stephen Hendry tipping him to be champion again. He had a late-night finish on Wednesday when he fought from 12-11 down to defeat Mark Selby 13-12, a win he described as the greatest of his career. And when he lost an untidy opening frame yesterday it seemed that the exertion might have been affecting him. However, steady breaks of 40, 55 and 49 saw the Wishaw man begin to dominate, even though the play remained scrappy.

Neither player was particularly fluent before the mid-session interval, and it is believed concerns were raised over the state of the baize. Both had suffered terrible kicks, and the table, which was reclothed overnight, was playing slowly. It was ironed during the interval, and there was a notable change when the players returned.

Allen, bidding to become the first Northern Irish player to reach the final since Dennis Taylor's 1985 triumph, closed the gap to 3-2 with a break of 41. But then Higgins' century break brought the match to life and he also edged a tight seventh frame, before a closing 75 left Allen trailing by four.

In the other semi-final Shaun Murphy and Neil Robertson, both clearly determined to prove Hendry wrong, finished their opening session tied at 4-4. Murphy, the champion in 2005, gave a composed performance but could not shake off the Australian.

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