Neil Robertson will meet Mark Allen in the International Championship final after an entertaining 9-7 victory over Jack Lisowski on Saturday in Daqing.
The Australian played well but most importantly relied on his experience to outlast the “Big” Lisowski in a high-quality affair.
A semi-final encounter that was close for the majority of the contest, the outcome was crucially decided in the middle period of the second session when Robertson won a succession of close frames on the colours to establish an 8-5 lead.
Lisowski fought gallantly to reduce the arrears back to just one frame, which had been the most that had separated the pair until a crucial twelfth frame before the mid-session interval that was pinched by Robertson.
But the latter never really looked phased and took his first proper chance to triumph with a composed break of 60 in the last frame to advance to Sunday’s showdown with Allen, who beat Matthew Stevens in the opening last four tie on Friday.
Both Robertson and Allen will be attempting to win the tournament for the first time having both previously lost in an International Championship final – two in fact for the Northern Irishman after defeats in 2014 and again twelve months ago.
The pair has battled 14 times in their careers since a first meeting a decade ago, which also came in the same country in the first round of the 2008 China Open.
Allen won on that occasion but it’s the former world champion who has enjoyed the better of most of their fixtures since, collecting ten victories overall.
For a number of years, it seemed like they couldn’t stop playing each other in the prestigious Masters and several of those ties proved to be barnstorming affairs that boasted a lot of big breaks.
But their most high-profile match came in the final of the 2015 Champion of Champions at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry when Robertson prevailed with a 10-5 scoreline.
The Melbourne man, who won the Riga Masters at the outset of the campaign, will probably start this title decider as the slight favourite too but there isn’t much to separate them on paper.
Both players are capable of scoring heavily, highlighted by the ten centuries that Allen has compiled en route to the International Championship final and the 30 that Robertson has constructed in total this season – the most of any player on the Main Tour.
History! 🙌@JackLisowski records the 100th century of the week, a feat never before achieved at a World Snooker event at any venue.
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) November 3, 2018
Indeed, there has been much made about the favourable playing conditions in Daqing this week, with a suggestion that the pockets have been more generous than usual, and that has been underlined by the fact that there has been a century of centuries made in the tournament up until this point.
That tally is sure to be added to tomorrow as two attack-minded competitors go toe-to-toe for the trophy and the rich £175,000 top prize.
Masters champion Allen is bidding for a fourth career ranking crown, a relatively small number for someone of his capability, whereas glory for Robertson would represent his 15th and take him alongside world number one Mark Selby in sixth on the all-time list.