Mark Allen is in the most confident form of his entire career after clinching glory in the World Grand Prix on Sunday in Cheltenham.
The Northern Irishman claimed a third ranking title of a successful season so far with a dramatic 10-9 triumph over Judd Trump at the Centaur.
Allen had appeared to be cruising when he dominated the first session and extended his advantage to 7-2 at the beginning of the evening’s play.
But despite compiling a tournament-high break of 141 in the 12th frame, Allen was in his chair for long periods as his shackle-free opponent reeled back the scores to restore parity at 8-8.
After sharing the next couple of frames, a tense decider ensued with both players having opportunities but the Pistol ultimately having enough to get past the winning post.
“I felt really good at 8-4,” the new world number three Mark Allen told the World Snooker Tour.
“It was probably the only time this week that I’ve felt good, and then I just missed one or two half chances and Judd got on a run.”
“He’s hard to stop when he’s like that, his safety improved as well because I felt like I was getting on top of that side of it in the early parts.
“It’s never easy these things, but to do it the way I’ve done it – yes, it would have been nicer to finish it in one go in the last frame – but to get over the line after being so far ahead shows the strength of character that I’ve got.
“There were a number of times I felt I had him in all sorts of trouble, then the next thing he’s taking on a crazy red.
“Because he’s in trouble obviously he’s trying to force it. I think he won three frames off crazy, crazy reds.
“That puts you under pressure, because then you need your safety to be perfect. I was missing one or two at the time in the balls as well, which doesn’t help.
“He’s won 23 ranking titles and everything the game has to offer, so you’re expecting that sort of snooker from Judd when he’s behind.
“I chatted to my psychologist at the break at 6-2, and not that we were thinking negative, but he even said in a way you get to test yourself – if he comes back to 8-8 or 9-9.
“If it goes close, that’s just another challenge. He said if you’re up to it, so be it, and if you’re not, we’ll try again next week.
“It’s really clear things like that he’s trying to get me to enjoy – the battle. When it went 9-9, I was just really, really looking forward to it.
“It didn’t turn out to be the best frame in the world, but ultimately I got the job done. That’s what it’s about.
“It’s been invaluable (having the psychologist). I’m thinking so positively all the time, even when my game hasn’t been there.
“I’m always thinking clearly. I feel like I’m always choosing what shots are best for the occasion and how I’m feeling on any given day.
“He’s helped me get there, it’s been a proper team effort. Obviously I’ve sorted a lot of the problems off the table as well, which means I can focus on snooker again.
“I’ve never really been one to set any targets. I always said I’d try my best in every tournament and see where that leaves me.
“He’s trying to get me a bit more target-orientated – looking at Sheffield, looking at world number one.
“I’ve never really had a chance to do that, but with the start I’ve had this season, up to number three, there’s not far to go now.
“I appreciate how hard it’s going to be to get to that final step, but it’s good having targets. I never thought I’d say that.”
Allen got off the mark this term by defending his Northern Ireland Open crown before landing the UK Championship title in York in November.
Having tallied more than half a million pounds in ranking tournaments this season alone, he has risen to number two on the provisional end-of-season world rankings list.
Featured photo credit: WST