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World Championship: Allen on cue to spring Crucible surprise

Shock eliminations dominated the first week of the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield with defending champion Mark Selby and Ronnie O'Sullivan both knocked out by Mark Williams and Ali Carter respectively.

Those big-name exits mean Ding Junhui is the new favourite in the World Snooker Championship odds to land his first world title following comfortable victories over Chinese countryman Xiao Guodong and Anthony McGill.

Ding, with 13 ranking titles to his name, was beaten by Selby in the 2016 final and again in the last four 12 months ago, so he will certainly be relieved to see the back of the 'Jester from Leicester'.

However, in our World Championship snooker betting preview we're backing Mark Allen at 8/1 to win a maiden world title.

Despite being in the quarter-finals for the first time in seven years, the momentum is with the 32-year-old Northern Irishman who three months ago won the Masters, one of snooker's three major titles.

Allen is in the toughest half of the draw, but he enjoyed recent success against his last-eight opponent Kyren Wilson with a 10-7 victory in the Masters final which looks to be a more relevant indicator than his 4-2 defeat to The Warrior at last month's Romanian Masters.

Should Allen pull through the best-of-25 encounter with Wilson, who had tip trouble at the end of his win against Jamie Jones, he will face either Judd Trump or four-time champion John Higgins in the last four.

Trump met Higgins in the 2011 final but with the scores poised at 14-14 he went on to lose four of the last five frames.

Allen has won four of his last five encounters with Trump, including a 6-5 victory in this season's International Championship quarter-final and a win at the UK Championship five years ago.

Higgins will also hold no fear for Allen who has beaten the Scot in three of their last four meetings, all of which have taken place in the last 16 months. It should be noted, though, that Higgins' sole victory came in the last 16 of last year's World Championship.

Allen had a comfortable win against Sheffield rookie Liam Highfield 10-5 and then took the final five frames to eliminate Joe Perry 13-8 in round two, results that may not set the world on fire but with so many high-profile casualties, 2018 could be the year of the underdog.

Mark Allen to win World Championship @ 8/1

Warren Barner
@warren_barner in Snooker