John Higgins won the battle of the new cues as he claimed a 6-5 victory over Mark Allen to set up a meeting with Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter finals of the Masters.
Both players came into the game with fairly new cues in hand - Allen more so as he only returned to competitive action this week following a spell out with coronavirus.
In contrast, Higgins got plenty of table time last week in the Championship League and he looked far sharper than his opponent at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
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Allen kept himself in the hunt by winning the first two frames immediately after the interval, but Higgins regrouped to take the match in a dramatic final-frame decider and set up a clash with O'Sullivan who beat Ding Junhui earlier in the day.
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Higgins started confidently, and a couple of contributions were enough to secure the opening frame.
Watch Higgins close out dramatic final-frame decider against Allen
Allen began the second frame with an alarming miss, as he hit a red on the wrong side of the ball than intended, but Higgins let him in when failing to roll in a blue to the middle and the Northern Irishman knocked in a 106.
Higgins - in his 27th Masters appearance - had his eyes trained on a 147 when knocking in seven reds and seven blacks in the third frame but he missed the eighth into the middle. While it was a moment of frustration for the Scot, he regrouped to take the frame and move 2-1 ahead.
While not in spectacular form, Higgins’ snooker was extremely solid - and he seized on an error from Allen when attempting to escape from a snooker and he knocked in a break of 82 to move 3-1 ahead at the interval.
As in the second frame, Allen hit the wrong side of a red when attempting a long pot in the fifth. The snooker gods were smiling down on him, as he fluked it into a different pocket and cashed in with a break of 92.
Watch Allen get away with an outrageous fluke against Higgins
The sixth was the first scrappy frame of the match. Higgins appeared in control, but he went in-off when attempting a red and later missed a pink that was frame ball as Allen took advantage of the reprieves to draw level.
Higgins could have been forgiven for losing a bit of belief on the back of the previous two frames, but the two-time Masters champion is made of stern stuff and he bounced back to knock in an 84 to edge back in front.
He got in again in the eighth and made no mistake, as a break of 80 - which was kicked off by a brilliant long red - moved him to within one frame of victory.
Allen did not wave the white flag and a break of 62 cut the deficit to one frame.
Both players offered chances to each other in the 10th. Higgins got himself to match ball, but he refused a red along the rail and elected for a safety. Allen extricated himself from trouble and laid a snooker of his own which earned him four foul points. Higgins' decision not to take on the pot proved costly as Allen won a safety battle and then cleared the colours to force a deciding frame.
They each had chances in the final frame. Allen was the first to falter, but Higgins blinked by missing a red with a rest by some way.
Allen had victory in sight but nerves were a factor and he missed to let Higgins in. The 45-year-old has proved throughout his career that he can dig in when required and he made one of the best half-century breaks of his career to book his passage into the last eight.
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