Mark Allen could face former girlfriend Reanne in World Snooker Championship
It was the biggest break of his life - and now snooker star Mark Allen's ex-girlfriend could stand between him and world championship glory.
The Antrim man's former partner and mother of his daughter, Reanne Evans, is on course to become the first woman to play at the World Snooker Championship.
The 10-times ladies' champion has accepted an invitation to take on the men in the qualifying stages and is now just three wins away from the tournament's main televised stages at the Crucible in Sheffield.
And she could ultimately find herself looking over the baize at a familiar face, that of Allen.
Mark and Reanne met after he arrived in England in 2005 to take his first steps as a pro. Their first encounter was at a tournament that year and, within two years, she had given birth to their daughter Lauren. The couple later split in difficult circumstances.
Nicknamed the Bullet, Allen shared centre stage with Lauren at last year's World Championship when, having sealed a crucial first-round victory against Matthew Stevens, he approached his daughter, seated in the front row, and caught her in an emotional embrace.
Now happily married to Kyla McGuigan, Allen previously told of the emotional toll his break-up with Reanne had.
"I was away a lot and struggling financially and my relationship was getting really strained and it all mounted up," he said.
"I wouldn't always answer the phone and wouldn't follow through with plans. Friends would make arrangements and I couldn't be bothered to go out. I'd avoid them. Sometimes I couldn't get out of bed."
Having sought help to tackle his demons, Allen has been getting it right on and off the table since.
Yesterday Reanne (29) joked she "had to charge my phone three times" due to the media interest in her potential bow on snooker's biggest stage.
The 10-times ladies' champion accepted the invitation to take on the men in qualifying. And she is now just three wins away from playing in the tournament's main televised stages.
"It shows that everybody gets a chance if they work hard enough and can achieve their dreams," she said.
Snooker's governing body, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), revamped the qualifying rules for its showpiece tournament, which take place in Sheffield from April 18 to May 4, in an effort to broaden its appeal.
All players seeded outside the top 16 will start in the same round, with a total of 128 players competing in the qualifiers. This has opened up extra places, which will be given to any former world champions who want to enter, plus leading amateur players at the discretion of the WPBSA.
"I'm thrilled that I've been invited," said amateur player Reanne, who in 2013 became the first female qualifier for the main stages of a ranking event. "You are obviously going to get your critics saying it's only because she's a woman that she got the invite. I feel like I've paid my dues to the game and this is a little payback."
Mark Allen previously told this newspaper he was determined to win the World Championship with his parents watching on. "My dad was a good player - he used to beat me all the time, but I overtook him when I was 14 or 15," he said. "He had a heart attack nine years ago and it's like, your dad's your rock, and that startled me. I want him to see me do my best. I would love to be ranked number one, but I'd rather be the world champion."