Allen backs old stager Davis to extend run

MARK ALLEN last night backed Crucible legend Steve Davis to join him in the quarter-finals of the World Championship as the veteran’s gripping clash with John Higgins headed for a tense finish.

Northern Irishman Allen made short work of England’s Mark Davis yesterday, winning eight of the 10 frames they contested to seal a 13-5 victory and become the first man into the final eight.

Graeme Dott, the 2006 champion, was looking likely to be Allen’s next opponent. Dott surprisingly opened up a 7-1 lead over world number two Stephen Maguire.

But for the second day running the match between Steve Davis and Higgins had the famous Sheffield venue buzzing, and Allen believes Davis has a big chance of converting his 9-7 overnight lead into a stunning win.

“It’s not too bad at all!” Allen said.

“The first session surprised me, not just the score-line but the pattern of the match.

“John had the better of the safety and Steve did all the scoring which I don’t think too many people would have thought possible.

“But all credit to Steve because he’s 52 and still competing at the top level, and he’s got a great chance against John even though he pegged him back a little bit this afternoon, but his experience might come through in the end.”

Davis’ experience at the Crucible amounts to a record 30 appearances, and even if he loses today he has marked the landmark in astounding fashion, considering he had not won a match at the World Championship since 2006 or made a century in competition all season.

Defending champion Higgins is attempting to become the first man to land back-to-back Crucible titles since Stephen Hendry won five in a row from 1992 to 1996.

Davis last triumphed in 1989 and, while a seventh world title is probably out of his reach, victory against Higgins is certainly there for the taking.

Higgins must effectively win today’s concluding session 6-3 or better, or he will be heading home early. He edged yesterday’s session 5-3, however it was Davis who left the arena in high spirits after pinching the last of the session.

Eight-all would have meant Higgins going favourite, but with a two-frame lead Davis has an outstanding chance of reaching the 13-frame victory mark. Higgins made breaks of 78 and 106, while Davis had runs of 83 and 55.

Former world champion Dott, needing to reach the semi-finals to reclaim his place in the top 16, opened up a 7-1 lead over his fellow Scot Maguire.

Dott went on runs of 94, 110, 99 and 59, and Maguire had a top break of 35, from the opening frame, which he lost.

Allen is lying in wait for the winner, and gets a rest day tomorrow in which his only plans are to get plenty of sleep.

He made breaks of 146, 131 and 101 against Davis — the latter two came consecutively yesterday evening, after he resumed at 11-5.

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