Mark Allen is into the second round of the World Snooker Championship after completing a 10-5 triumph against Liam Highfield on Monday in Sheffield.
The Northern Irishman produced a strong all-round performance to see off the debutant and advance to the last 16, where he’ll meet Mark Selby’s conqueror Joe Perry.
Despite capturing a maiden Triple Crown title this season when he lifted the prestigious Masters trophy in January, Allen only just about sneaked into the automatic places for the Crucible with a last gasp victory in the China Open earlier this month.
Indeed, Allen began this tournament provisionally back outside the top 16 in the world rankings, albeit his opening round victory has seen him return to the elite bracket for the time being at least.
The 32 year-old is one of the most entertaining competitors on the tour to watch but his consistency throughout his career has left a lot to be desired.
Allen either blows very hot or very cold and he can often experience the pair of extremes in the same match, let alone throughout a season or even a tournament.
The three-time ranking event champion has been a streaky player ever since he turned professional more than a decade ago, countering numerous fruitful spells of success with prolonged runs of disappointment.
Nine years ago, Allen announced himself as a marquee name and a leading protagonist when he overcame then defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the second round at the Crucible.
Allen’s fearless approach, both on and off the table, won him many fans and, by following up his run to the semi-finals on that occasion with two successive appearances in the last eight, he seemed to suggest that he had the pedigree to be a proper contender for the sport’s holy grail.
Mark Allen overcomes impressive debutant Liam Highfield!
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker1) April 23, 2018
However, since 2011 the “Pistol” has consistently misfired in Sheffield and has failed to win a best of 25 frame encounter at the venue ever since.
In 2018, Allen has a brilliant opportunity to at least set that record straight when he does battle with England’s Perry, the oldest man in the tournament.
Perry put in a classy, measured display to dispatch of the world number one in the last 32 but it’ll be another thing entirely for the 43 year-old to back that up, especially as it’ll be unlikely that he’ll face as weak an opposition for the second straight encounter.
That said, the pressure will be completely off the “Gentleman” and thoroughly on Allen’s shoulders, who would have expected to be the underdog against Selby but now finds himself in the position of being the clear favourite to progress to the last eight.
Allen demonstrated in London his ability to stand up to the pressure and he’ll be hoping to feed off of those memories in an effort to banish his recent World Championship underachievement.
One question that remains unanswered surrounds the issue of Allen’s stamina to last the distance of a 17-day slog in Sheffield.
While he is regarded as the one of the most determined and tenacious characters on the circuit, Allen’s tendency to make hard work from seemingly strong positions could potentially lead to his burnout by the time the business end of the tournament comes around.
That he isn’t the fittest athlete around is also obvious and something he has openly admitted in the past to being a hindrance to his career.
But it’s unlikely that Allen would fear anybody in his side of the draw – especially in his quarter of the bracket, being close friends with Shaun Murphy and having taken out Kyren Wilson to land the Masters crown a few months ago.
Allen wouldn’t yet be regarded as one of the four or five players who are likely to be in the mix come this day fortnight when the lucrative cheques are being delivered, yet it’s hard to rule him out completely of manoeuvring his way into contention under the radar.