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Mark Allen knocked out of The Masters after epic first round defeat to John Higgins as in-form Ronnie O'Sullivan lies in wait



Mark Allen missed his chance to tee up a quarter-final tie against Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Mark Allen missed his chance to tee up a quarter-final tie against Ronnie O'Sullivan.

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Mark Allen missed his chance to tee up a quarter-final tie against Ronnie O'Sullivan.

It was a day of stunning comeback at The Masters, will Mark Allen coming within a whisker of matching Ronnie O'Sullivan's fightback earlier in the day, only for the Antrim star to lose a deciding frame to John Higgins.

Much like the Rocket, who had lost the opening three frames of his tie against Ding Junhui, Allen was fighting from behind throughout his opening match of the tournament. Having trailed 3-1 at the interval, the Antrim potter won the next three frames to tie the match but it wasn't long before that two-frame cushion returned, Higgins making breaks of 80 and 84 to lead 5-3.

That put the world number seven within a frame of the quarter-final but it proved hard to come-by as Allen once again won back-to-back frames to level the scores and force the match into a nerve-jangling final frame.

Even when Higgins seemed like he was in to seal victory, a misplaced cue ball meant he couldn't see the brown, allowing Allen a glimmer of hope. However, that proved only brief, with the four-time world champion soon potting an impressive shot down the table to grab his spot in the last eight, where he meets that man O'Sullivan.

Ronnie trailed his own match 3-1 at the mid-session interval and, in truth, the 45-year-old looked down and out at 5-3 behind.

But the Rocket - who has 37 ranking event titles to his name in addition to seven Masters wins - responded by claiming the match's final three frames, with two half-centuries in tow, to eventually prevail 6-5.

"I'm probably the fittest I've been for 10 years," said O'Sullivan, the World No.3. "I'm running 45 miles a week at the moment, and I'm more excited about that than anything else, really.

"I'm trying to get up to 60 miles a week if I can, while potting a few balls and enjoying the snooker. It was nice to pot a few balls today and get the result.

"When it's not going your way in a big match, you've just got to suck it up sometimes. I never doubt my ability to stick in there - I'm Premier League in the mentality department."

Despite Judd Trump being absent from the tournament and the fact the likes of Neil Robertson and Mark Selby have already fallen in Buckinghamshire, O'Sullivan isn't expecting an easy ride in The Masters' latter stages.

But having committed a considerable number of hours to the practice table amid the coronavirus pandemic, he is hopeful he will start to reap the rewards over the coming weeks and months.

O'Sullivan added: "I don't pay a lot of attention to who goes out and when because it's getting harder to win tournaments with a lot of players in their prime. It never works out how it's supposed to - that's just sport.

"There's not been a lot else to do recently so I've been on the practice table for six hours a day religiously for three weeks. If it doesn't come off at this tournament, hopefully it will at another one soon."

World No.9 Ding added: "I had good chances to win the match but did not take them. I sometimes made it complicated to win frames, I just needed to take simple shots and take the points. I sometimes confused myself."

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Belfast Telegraph