John Higgins blew a huge sigh of relief after fighting off a valiant comeback attempt from Mark Allen to edge into the Masters quarter-finals in Milton Keynes.
The 45-year-old got off to a blistering start in the pair’s opening-round tie, knocking breaks of 56 and 82 in frames three and four respectively to take a healthy 3-1 lead into the mid-session interval.
After Allen hit back with two frames in succession, Higgins duly responded by putting himself on the brink of victory at 5-3 in the best-of-11 clash at the Marshall Arena, where the second Triple Crown event of the season is being held due to Covid-19 restrictions.
And after weathering another Allen storm to take the decider and eventually prevail 6-5, world No.6 Higgins admitted both players made mistakes in a game that could have swung in either’s favour.
“I’m delighted to get over the line, it’s a great win for me,” said the Wizard of Wishaw. “Mark’s a top, top player and I don’t think I’ve beaten him at the Masters before.
“I thought it was a good game. We missed a few pots each which is understandable with the pressure of the occasion, but thankfully I got over the line in the end.
“Mark was really unlucky at times in the final frame. He missed the pressure brown and I was able to get in. I thought I played pretty well under pressure at the end.”
Without a Triple Crown title since the 2011 World Championship, Higgins believes his ability to grind out victory against Allen could stand him in good stead in his bid to lift the Masters trophy for the third time in his career this week.
Next up is a mouth-watering quarter-final clash with reigning world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan on Friday night, and Higgins is confident there will be plenty of thrills and spills shared between the old rivals with a spot in the last four at stake.
He added: “I’ve not really been winning deciding frames recently and if you’re not doing that it’s so much harder to get over the line. Hopefully that’ll give me a bit of confidence to push on now.
“Everybody should just stay in, crack open the beers and watch the game against Ronnie. It should be good fun!”
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