Watch: Mark Allen makes emotional return to Northern Ireland as the 2018 Dafabet Masters champion
Mark Allen may have been the forgotten man a week ago but he printed his name into the snooker history books last night as he powered to his first Dafabet Masters title.
Allen returned to Belfast International Airport at 4.30pm on Monday, just 18 hours after he overcame Kyren Wilson to become the first Northern Irishman since Dennis Taylor in 1987 to get his hands on the Masters trophy.
Watch his emotional return to Northern Irish soil here (fast forward to 6 mins 35 for Allen's arrival):
LIVE: Mark Allen returns to Northern Ireland as 2018 Masters Snooker Champion 🙌🏼🙌🏼 READ MORE:...Posted by Belfast Telegraph Sport on Monday, January 22, 2018
Allen's final against Kyren Wilson will not be remembered as a classic with both players displaying nerves on an occasion they are not used to gracing.
But Antrim ace Allen claimed a 10-7 win in an intense encounter last night to pick up the £200,000 cheque, Paul Hunter trophy and his first major title.
"It is surreal," he said. "It has been a long time coming.
"I was never sure it was going to come to be honest, I have knocked on the door for so long but now I can say I have won a triple crown title. What a competitor Kyren Wilson is. He is the nicest guy you could meet and he has a great family with him too.
"I know what it is like to sit in that seat after losing a major final, I lost to Judd in the 2011 UK, but how far has he come in the last two years?
"He is going to be in major finals for years to come. I have felt calm all week, apart from the first session, I was very on edge."
Allen added: "I felt like as the match went on I got stronger and I felt as east with myself and was playing the way I had been the rest of the week. But to be on the right end of it was massive for me. I am over the moon.
"It is 40 years since Alex Higgins first lifted this trophy so to bring it back to Northern Ireland, that's what I do it for."
The final may have missed Ronnie O'Sullivan and Mark Selby, who have shared snooker's triple crown events, the World Championship, Masters and UK Championship, since 2015.
But if their star quality was absent then Allen and Wilson more than made up for it with some gritty displays in the evening session. With the match locked at 4-4 at the Alexandra Palace, it looked set for a long night when the first two frames were again shared. But Allen pulled 8-5 clear and looked set to motor to the trophy before Wilson, in keeping with the contest, closed to with one frame to set the nerves jangling.
However, just as it looked like he could repeat his semi-final comeback against Judd Trump, Allen dug deep to open up a two-frame lead and he finished it off with a superb 72 to win.
"You can't make mistakes against a player of his class," Wilson admitted. "I just made things a little bit too easy for him, I kept putting him in the balls and you can't so that against him
"I am devastated. I said if I was going to loser to anyone, I don't mind it being Mark."
Here's the final as it happened: