Mark Allen paid tribute to his supporters and admitted that being outclassed in the safety department cost him dearly after crashing out of the Masters at the quarter-final stage.
The Antrim cueman had disposed of defending champion Shaun Murphy 6-4 in the first round but failed to follow that up at London's Alexandra Palace last night as he went down 6-2 to Barry Hawkins.
Allen took 10 days off over Christmas and admitted he didn't feel sharp in his first round win but appeared back to his best as he made a classy 109 in the opening frame against Hawkins.
However, the Englishman then rattled off the next four frames - with breaks of 81, 68 and 53 in the process - before Allen finally stopped the rot with a 58 to make it 4-2.
But the reprieve was only temporary as Hawkins won frame seven in two visits and clinched victory with a 52 to book a semi-final with the winner of today's match between Judd Trump and Neil Robertson.
And Allen conceded that his opponent's control of the table was superior.
"All credit to Barry really, he froze me out and it got to the stage where I felt like even if I got in, I wasn't going to do anything with my chance," said Allen. "It was a pure lack of table time and Barry dominated.
"That's a few times recently that Barry has done that to me. I feel like if I can compete in the safety department with him that I'll have too much for him.
"But the problem is he's dominating that area on a regular basis and he thoroughly deserved to win.
"It was a similar match to our one at the World Championships where I felt in control early but all of a sudden you get frozen out and his safety is absolute granite every time.
"He never puts a foot wrong and you have to play very, very well to beat Barry but I didn't play anywhere near well enough."
Allen hailed the backing given by his supporters and must now turn his attention to a busy second half of the season.
"People pay a lot of money to come and watch you and just because I played like a tube doesn't mean I shouldn't sign a few autographs," he said. "I had great support out there even though I was getting battered."
Meanwhile, Ronnie O'Sullivan's bid to win a first title in over a year gathered pace with an impressive 6-3 win over Mark Selby to reach the semi-finals.
The last time the pair met was the 2014 World Championship final when Selby won 18-14.
The Rocket will face John Higgins or World Champion Stuart Bingham tomorrow night.
O'Sullivan took a break after last year's World Championship, only returning to competitive action last month.
Five-times Masters champion O'Sullivan said: "I wasn't feeling technically great out there but I still had to go for my shots and try to make things happen.
"I wanted to keep attacking and keep my opponent on the back foot. My long game was good and I stayed patient.
"Mark is the only player who can win tournaments when he's not at his best because tactically he is unbelievable and he's the hardest match player on the circuit. He's like granite.
"I realised he doesn't only play like that against me. I admire his tenacity and his will to win, I've got massive respect for him," said O'Sullivan (pictured).
"We've had a bit of grudge and needle over the years and I have probably taken it personally, but not any more because I know he's a great player."