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Winner winner

'It means so much' - Northern Ireland's Mark Allen wins first Masters title

He held his nerve to beat Kyren Wilson 10-7.

NORTHERN IRELAND’S MARK Allen won his first Dafabet Masters title at Alexandra Palace last night.

The world number eight saw off Kyren Wilson 10-7 in a marathon match lasting five hours and 14 minutes.

40 years since Alex Higgins won his first Masters title, Allen followed in his footsteps and pocketed £200,000 in prize money for scooping the honour. En route to the final, he beat former champions Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins.

With nerves high, the mistakes were plenty in the early exchanges with Wilson taking an early advantage. Allen soon found his groove and took the lead for the first time at the 3-2 mark.

Wilson responded with back-to-back breaks of 86 and 89, but Allen’s narrow success in the final frame of the afternoon made it a best of 11 match heading into the evening session. And the contest continued from the restart.

Two-time semi-finalist in this tournament Allen took almost 40 minutes to secure the ninth frame but Wilson didn’t let him too far out of his sight.

A 73 from the Antrim native followed up by a sizzling 119 – the first century of the match – and another 50 finally powered the 35-year-old up 8-5 as Wilson’s errors proved costly.

Allen held his nerve to clinch it in the end, donning a Northern Ireland football jersey in the press conference afterwards:

2018 Dafabet Masters - Day Eight - Alexandra Palace Allen in action. PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

“It means so much to me,” he said. “That’s what I play the game for. It would’ve been devastating to get so close and not win it so very, very pleased.

“I actually heard today it was 40 years today since Alex (Higgins) first won it, that’s always in the back of your mind, not so much when you’re playing but when you’ve actually got over the line those sort of things come back.

“Northern Ireland as a whole get behind their sports people, they always do. I’ve got so much support over the years and I’ve done pretty much nothing in the game, hopefully now I’ll get a bit more.”

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