Home favourite Mark Allen defends Northern Ireland Open title after sensational comeback

Defending champion Mark Allen won eight frames on the trot to retain his Northern Ireland Open title after launching a concerted fightback to beat Zhou Yuelong.

The 36-year-old lifted the Alex Higgins trophy for the second successive year despite trailing 4-1 in the final at Belfast's Waterfront Hall, securing his win in style with a break of 109.

Allen barely gave Zhou a chance after recovering from a difficult start, compiling breaks of 50 or above in seven of the last eight frames to win 9-4.

He told Eurosport: "It hasn't been quite like last year, I didn't have my best stuff this week. But what I did have was just unbelievable fight and tenacity because I feel like I won that match today in the first session.

"He (Zhou) completely dominated the play, he should have gone 5-1 in front, I was hanging on. I managed to get out 4-4 and was just a different player tonight. I was so positive.

"I felt like I had got out of jail today and I played well tonight."

Having seen Allen take the first frame, China's Zhou responded in determined fashion to win the next four, the second of them after a visit of 135, and the 24-year-old passed up a glorious opportunity to make it 5-1.

He was punished severely as his opponent scrapped his way back into the contest with breaks of 68, 55, 53, 85, 50, 51, saving the best for last to clinch his seventh ranking tournament victory in front of a delighted home crowd.

Allen said: "It doesn't get any better than this in front of my friends, family, people who have been here. It's phenomenal the support I get year in, year out even when I wasn't doing very well here. I probably got a lot more support than I deserved at that time.

"But this is what we do in Northern Ireland, we support our own, so thank you very, very much."

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