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Allen overcomes opening session shakes to win Masters crown

Mark Allen celebrates winning the 2018 Dafabet Masters trophy at the Alexandra Palace, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION on Sunday January 21 2018. Picture by Steven Paston/PA Wire.

Mark Allen fought off a spirited performance from Kyren Wilson to win his first Dafabet Masters title with a 10-7 victory at Alexandra Palace... and afterwards admitted: "I was completely sh***ing myself in the first session."

The world number eight was matched for much of Sunday's contest by his fellow first-time finalist before edging away to lift the Paul Hunter trophy and pocket £200,000 in prize money.

It was 40 years since the great Alex Higgins won his first Masters title and Northern Ireland star Allen - who beat former champions Ronnie O'Sullivan and John Higgins en route to the last two - followed in the footsteps of his countryman following a marathon match lasting five hours and 14 minutes.

Champion Allen, who put on a Northern Ireland football shirt for his post-match press conference, said: "Weirdly, I felt calmer as the match went on, I felt more at ease with myself.

"You're never going to win one of these triple crown events easily and that was the test, it would have been easy to crumble.

"I was completely sh***ing myself in the first session. You want to win these big events so it was a massive occasion for both of us.

"It means so much to me, 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."

Runner-up Wilson, who was in tears after the defeat, said: "I just made things a bit too easy for Mark, you can't do that to a player of Mark's class, he's too good and he'll punish you. That's what he did tonight.

"I'm absolutely devastated. If I was going to lose to anyone, I'm happy it was Mark because he deserves it, he's been fantastic performer, very consistent nowadays, really nice lad and I'm really happy for him.

"It was nice going into Pizza Express in the interval and just having people coming up to me wanting signatures, that's what I want for the sport and that's what I want for myself.

"That's only going to come by making these major finals but I'd like to turn them into trophies."

It was arguably the biggest contest in the careers of both men and the nerves showed across two edgy and even sessions.

Wilson, the first player born in the 1990s to appear in a triple crown final, had never won a match at the invitational tournament before this year and he threatened to complete a remarkable story before falling agonisingly short.

The opening three frames of the day followed a similar pattern with both players having chances among the balls and both making mistakes.

A 65 from Wilson gave him an early advantage before Allen, who ensured there would be a new name on the trophy by defeating two-time champion Higgins in Saturday's second semi-final, quickly levelled courtesy of a knock of 62.

Following a change of an ill-fitting waistcoat due to chafing, Kettering-born Wilson stole the third after Allen had made the early running.

Allen then edged a mistake-littered fourth frame of more than 45 minutes which was briefly interrupted by a wasp on the baize and a phone in the audience.

The ringing mobile went off three times before the hapless spectator was escorted from the arena but Wilson, who was forced to get up off his shot each time, showed no ill-will and asked for the man to be let back in.

Allen took the next frame to lead for the first time in the match at 3-2 but it was proving difficult to separate the duo.

Wilson responded superbly with successive breaks of 86 and 89, however, Allen's narrow success in the final frame of the afternoon effectively reduced it to a best of 11 match heading into the evening session.

The keenly-fought contest continued from the restart.

Allen, twice a semi-finalist in this tournament, took almost 40 minutes to secure the ninth frame and then, following a re-rack, Wilson hit back with a finely-crafted break of 84.

A 73 from Allen followed by a sensational 119 - the first century of the match - and another 50 finally gave the 31-year-old daylight at 8-5 as Wilson began to make too many mistakes.

The 26-year-old - who had produced an epic comeback in his last-four victory over Judd Trump - was not done here and he reduced the deficit back to a single frame before his efforts proved to be in vain as Allen clinched the two frames required before celebrating with a fist pump.

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