Yan Bingtao’s excellent temperament came to the fore once again as he beat Mark Allen 6-4 to book his place in the final of the German Masters.
The 2021 Masters champion could have been forgiven for being emotionally drained after coming through two titanic, final-frame tussles against Mark Selby and Ryan Day to reach the last four.
But there were no signs of it. He encouraged the crowd as he walked into the arena, saw Allen race through the first frame, took control after the mid-session interval and held his nerve as it got twitchy to set up a meeting with his fellow countryman Zhao Xintong, who was too good for Ricky Walden earlier in the day.
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Allen had been in imperious form in Berlin this week and stroked in a break of 75 to take the opener to warn Yan that he would be tough to topple.
The second turned scrappy, but went Yan’s way after Allen was derailed by a kick on a pink and when a red appeared to roll off line and stick in the jaws of the bottom right.
Allen had one final chance to rescue the second, but somehow produced a foul that if he tried he would probably never be able to replicate.
Yan had the third frame in his grasp, but inexplicably missed a pink off its spot. He was attempting to pinch a piece of the pocket to create an angle, but overdid it and Allen countered superbly - with a brilliant double on the yellow the highlight - to move ahead.
Mark Allen plays brilliant double to help him take frame
One of Yan’s most admirable traits is his temperament and he shrugged off the missed pink to knock in a superb century to draw level at the interval.
The frame after the break saw Yan win a safety exchange and after picking off some tricky pots, a half-century was enough to move him ahead.
The sixth had a pivotal feel to it, and both had chances. They each broke down on 46, but Allen seemed set to take it when laying a fiendish snooker behind the black; Alan McManus on Eurosport commentary described the Northern Irishman as having the touch of a surgeon. It drew a chance, but he overcut a red to left middle and Yan pounced to sink the final red and the colours to open up a two-frame cushion.
After seeing Yan run through three frames on the spin, Allen required a response and he delivered an impressive one as a single-visit century reduced the arrears to one.
At 28 minutes, the eighth was an arm wrestle. It was one where both had chances but found it difficult to put away. The telling moment came when Yan laid a clever snooker on the final red. In attempting to escape, Allen hit the brown and left the red up for Yan who cleared to move within one of a place in the final.
Yan had a chance to put the match to bed in the ninth, but he ran out of position from a red and a black wriggled in the jaws of the bottom left. It was not a horrific miss, but it was enough to suggest he was feeling the pressure and Allen stepped in to cut the deficit to one.
There was high drama in the 10th, as Yan called a foul on himself when at the table and looking set to clinch frame and match; it was an act of sportsmanship which drew a huge ovation from the crowd.
After Allen missed, Yan shrugged off the setback and knocked in a series of pots out of the top drawer to get himself firmly back in the frame.
It came down to a battle on the colours, and Yan worked a snooker which earned him 10 penalty points. Allen had no margin for error, as he needed blue, pink and black to force a re-spot.
He was put in another snooker and missed again, but somehow got the snooker back to keep the match alive. Allen knocked in the blue, but missed a straight pink to prolong the match as it began to resemble the Crucible semi-final classic between Kyren Wilson and Anthony McGill in 2020.
Allen had a further shot at the pink, but it stayed above ground and Yan steeled himself to knock a superb pot into the yellow pocket to book his place in the final.
It is Chinese New Year next week and the country’s snooker fans will have something to celebrate as either Yan or Zhao will emulate Ding Junhui and become the second player from China to win the German Masters.
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