Ulsterman Mark Allen picked up one of the best wins of his snooker career yesterday and then dedicated the success to a close friend.
The Antrim man, who defeated World champion John Higgins by six frames to three in The Masters, paid tribute to Willie Lucas at the Wembley Arena.
Allen held us a sign that read ‘For The Glove’ after seeing off the Scot, referring to the recent death of Northern Ireland Pool Association chairman Lucas.
“It was a bit emotional towards the end, when it got to the last few balls I was trying not to cry,” admitted Allen.
“Willie was a member of the pool team I play for and a good friend. He ran the Northern Ireland Pool Association. The reference to the glove is he was the only player to wear one.”
Allen made numerous errors but Higgins made even more as the Ulsterman held on to win.
He conceded his performance was poor and he was surprised Higgins was even worse.
“It wasn't very good — I made breaks when I needed to but my concentration very poor,” he said.
“But it was an unusual John Higgins that I met today — usually you have to play your socks off against him.
“He's the provisional world number one and world champion, so there's a lot of pressure on him.
“Everyone has their off days, but it's more unexpected when it happens to someone like him.
“I remember thinking at 3-1 up when he missed another easy pot, ‘I feel I should win this now', so it was different pressure, but you still have to pot the balls no matter who your opponent is.”
Higgins took the opening frame in an intriguing tactical battle, taking the initiative after Allen endured a run of four successive misses.
Allen pulled back in the second frame, taking advantage of indifferent form from his opponent.
The left hander's positional play was far from perfect, but Higgins failed to capitalise and Allen was accomplished enough to forge further ahead with victory in the third frame.
Higgins responded in the fourth and appeared set to be levelling the match, but fouled, touching a red with his cue as he was lining up a black.
Allen took full advantage to take a two-frame advantage at the mid-session interval.
Higgins urgently needed to wrestle the initiative from his young opponent in the fifth frame and duly made his highest break of the contest, 39. Despite the miss he won a tactical battle on the pink to narrow the deficit.
World number 11 Allen made a break of 51 in the sixth frame and it was enough to hold on, but again Higgins hit back to narrow the deficit at 4-3.
The see-saw battle continued, with Allen taking the eighth frame and he built to 50 without response in the ninth before clinching the match as Higgins' terrible display continued.
“Take nothing away from Mark, if you look at the points total he had about a 1,000 and I had a 100. I was lucky to get three frames today,” Higgins admitted.
In last night’s other game, Ryan Day white-washed Joe Perry by six frames to nil.