Pistol Fires To 11th Ranking Crown

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Mark Allen came through a marathon battle with China’s Zhang Anda 10-8 to capture his third title of the season at the Johnstone’s Paint Players Championship in Telford.

The Pistol claimed victory with the clock just shy of midnight and secured ranking silverware for the 11th time in his career and fifth time since the 2021 Northern Ireland Open.

The 38-year-old was Player of the Season last term and although his 23/24 campaign has been a slower burn, he’s re-affirmed his status as one of snooker’s elite and as a serial winner. Allen won the Champion of Champions and the Shoot Out late last year.

Tonight’s triumph means Allen is now a two-time Players Champion, having claimed the title in 2016 when he defeated Ricky Walden 10-6 in the final.

The £125,000 top prize means Allen shoots from 12th position on the one-year list to fourth and guarantees his qualification for the Johnstone’s Paint Tour Championship.

Defeat for Zhang means he misses out on a place in the upcoming Riyadh Season World Masters of Snooker. The result sees Ali Carter cling on to the final spot in 8th position on the world rankings.

The afternoon session saw both players emerge locked level at 4-4, following a keenly contested first eight frames.

Allen took the opener this evening to go 5-4 ahead and lead for the first time in the match. Zhang replied with two on the bounce, including a run of 64, to regain the lead and move 6-5 ahead. Despite this, Allen rallied and won the last before the mid-session to restore parity.

Zhang had the first opportunity in the 13th. He broke down on 30 and a break of 64 saw Allen move 7-6 ahead.

Both players missed final pinks in a dramatic and edgy 14th, but Zhang’s error left Allen with a gilt edged chance to deposit the remaining two balls and he extended his advantage to 8-6.

The two frames which followed continued to be fragmented, with both players taking one apiece to leave Allen on the verge of victory at 9-7.

A break of 50 helped Zhang to extend the match, but it was Allen who controlled the 18th to take victory after an epic seven hour and 17 minute battle.

“This is what I’ve always wanted to do. Picking up one tournament every two or three seasons wasn’t where I wanted to be. I’ve made some changes off the table and they have stood me in good stead. I always wanted to be a consistent winner.”

Mark Allen

World Number Three

Allen added: “I’m not quite sure how I won that this week. I started off really well against Williams and just got progressively worse. I hung in there, played some good safety and potted some good balls when it mattered. I was fortunate that Zhang didn’t play as well as he has done, but I’m sitting here with the trophy and that’s all that matters.

“As the match went on he missed a few he hadn’t done and looked a little bit tired. That is understandable. It was a late finish against Mark Selby last night. It takes everything out of you playing him. The way Zhang is playing, he is going to be about for a long time to come. He is a dangerous opponent.

“There is a big six or seven weeks to come. To go in there off the back of another tournament win is something to be positive with. If I can just find a bit more comfort in my technique I can be dangerous in these last few tournaments. Everyone knows that I can win without playing well. It would be nice to find some form.”