Mark Allen has won the 2018 Masters after a compelling 10-7 victory over Kyren Wilson in Sunday’s final at the Alexandra Palace.
The Northern Irishman claimed his maiden Triple Crown trophy with a hard-fought success that sees him emulate famous countrymen Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor as champions in London.
The highly-anticipated showdown between two players gunning for a first major title was at times a gruelling challenge as they both understandably struggled to discover top form under the immense pressure.
However, buoyed by huge support inside an electric arena that produced a fitting atmosphere, Allen dug deep as the encounter progressed and didn’t really falter with the winning line in sight.
The opening exchanges in the afternoon had been nervy as neither competitor could properly settle amid conditions that they weren’t fully accustomed to.
Both Allen and Wilson have been ranking event champions and greater glories have been expected from the pair but that still can’t prepare you for the limelight of a prestigious occasion such as the Masters final.
As a result, there was never more than a frame in it as they shared the first eight frames before continuing that trend by trading the opening two frames upon the evening’s restart.
It was from here, though, that Allen began to take control and successive breaks of 73, 119, and 50 ensured that he established an ultimately insurmountable 8-5 cushion over the Englishman.
Wilson, who had previously been the higher scorer courtesy of a few 80-plus tallies, stopped the rot with a 73 of his own and duly pinched the 15th frame to get back to within just one frame.
A twitchy climax was expected but, after Wilson rattled a brown in the next, Allen compiled a run of 69 and followed it up with a gutsy 71 to seal his famous triumph.
The difference between victory and defeat was completely evident in their contrasting post-match interviews, with Allen’s natural elation balancing out Wilson’s heartbreak as he agonisingly broke down in tears.
Wilson once again proved that his temperament is among the strongest in the game and it would be a surprise if this was the last major final that we see the “Warrior” compete in.
Of course, Allen knows all too well that there are no guarantees in a sport that boasts a terrific cast of contenders, making it increasingly difficult to join the elite.
When the Antrim man first burst onto the professional scene as a 19 year-old in his home event, the Northern Ireland Trophy, he carried with him a weight of expectation following a glittering amateur career that saw him land every national title along with World and European amateur crowns.
There were plenty of false dawns, including his run to the semi-finals of the World Championship in 2009 and the final of the UK Championship in 2011, when he was narrowly denied by Judd Trump in York.
Allen endured a terrible last campaign and his top 16 place was even in doubt at one stage but he has managed to turn things around this season and has emerged with the best possible result on one of snooker’s biggest stages.
The 31 year-old is a popular winner not only for his attractive style of play but also because of his no-nonsense persona, which has often got him into trouble with the authorities as he is never shy to speak his mind.
In both senses, he can be compared to one of his idols in Higgins and it was perhaps fitting that Allen held his newly born baby during the trophy presentation akin to how the “Hurricane” famously cradled his child after capturing the 1982 world title in Sheffield.
The Crucible could next be on the agenda for Allen and who knows how this victory might help him in his quest to land the holy grail in May or in the future.
It certainly won’t hurt his chances but all of that talk can be for another time because Allen deserves to enjoy this moment and the realisation of a potential finally fulfilled.
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