Mark Williams to play 17-year old Yan Bingtao in Northern Ireland Open final

25 years separate the two finalists.

Mark Williams to play 17-year old Yan Bingtao in Northern Ireland Open final
Yan Bingtao is fulfilling his potential at an early stage in his career (photo: Getty Images / VCG)

Experience meets youth in Sunday's Northern Ireland Open final when 42-year old Mark Williams plays 17-year old Yan Bingtao in the Chinese sensation's first ranking final.

Three of the four quarter-finals go right to the wire

After a week of shock results in Belfast, it was no surprise to see the trend continue in the quarter-finals. Chinese compatriots Tian Pengfei and Lu Haotian played out an epic contest with a guaranteed £20,000 prize for the winner.

Number 58 seed Pengfei surprisingly fell 2-0 down to the man ranked outside the top 100, only to recover and go 3-2 ahead. However, Haotian took the next two frames to close in on a dream semi-final before Pengfei took the contest to a final frame decider. Yet it was the number 101 seed, Haotian, who held his nerve to progress into the final four.

His opponent for the semi-finals was to be Yan Bingtao after the teenager came through another memorable tie with Robert Milkins. Bingtao lost the opener by just four points before a century from Milkins put him in the driving seat.

An exchange of frames followed with a half-century apiece before Bingtao found some rhythm. He won three consecutive frames and fell just short of a fourth despite a break of 50, before defeating Milkins in a close final frame decider.

On the other side of the draw, number 15 seed Mark Williams cruised past Mike Dunn despite losing the opening frame. Three half-century breaks helped him cruise through with a 5-1 victory.

Yet the closest tie of the quarter-finals was played out between Li Yuan and Elliot Slessor. Neither player established more than a two-frame lead with the highest break a mere 52 from Slessor, seeded 78th in the competition.

However, he managed to edge a final frame decider after 3 of the 11 frames were separated by less than 15 points.

Bingtao one match away from his first ranking title

Slessor's reward for reaching the semi-finals for the first time in a ranking competition was a tie with Williams. Yet this one certainly did conclude as predicted.

The former World champion exerted his authority from the outset, taking a 2-0 lead that included a break of 127. Slessor did steal two of the next three frames, only for Williams to win three consecutive battles with two half-century breaks.

Williams' opponent in the final was either going to be 17-year old Bingtao or number 101 seed Lu Haotian. Despite favourite Bingtao taking the lead, Haotian stunned the Belfast crowd by winning the next two frames.

However, that moment sparked Bingtao into gear and he never looked back as he began to find his range. Five consecutive frames, including breaks of 73, 75 and 114 secured the teenager's first ranking final as he continues to showcase his remarkable talent.