John Higgins was left to rue missed opportunities after suffering his twelfth first round Dafabet Masters exit in 23 appearances on Monday afternoon, losing 6-5 to Mark Allen.
The Wizard of Wishaw has won the Masters twice but lost to Allen for the third time at the first round stage in a final frame decider at the Alexandra Palace.
The Scotsman, who last won this event in 2006, had his opportunities to see out the match and felt an unlucky bounce hampered his progress as he suffered a second first round exit in the last three years.
“They (losses) don’t get any easier, I seem to have had a lot of them in my career,” he said.
“I don’t know if you could tell, I thought I got a kick on that black, when I was playing it into the reds it bounced, but who knows. It was a bad miss and a miss that cost me the game.
“I had a good chance at the start but missed a bad red, I have no complaints, I missed the clutch balls at the end and when you do that you don’t win, it’s that simple.”
After a stuttering opening frame, a century break in the second frame had given Higgins a 2-0 lead before Allen fought back to go into the mid-session interval all square.
And despite taking the lead again, it was 4-4 when a dramatic clearance from Higgins saw the black ball re-spotted with the scores tied at 67 apiece.
Allen had made the initial break of 67 only to miss a simple-looking blue into the centre pocket with Higgins stepping up and nailing five reds and five blacks on his way to his own 67 break. And while it was the man from Antrim who was successful on the black to claim a 5-4 lead, the Scotsman wasn’t finished yet.
The experienced 41-year-old kept his composure to make a 77 break, his second highest of the match, in the tenth frame to send the second match of this tournament into a decider.
At the conclusion of that break four-time World Champion lifted his hand to his ear, copying Allen’s effort to gee up the crowd after sinking the re-spotted black, as the match headed into its final frame.
And Higgins, who was runner-up at the recent Scottish Open in Glasgow, was impressed with the atmosphere at Alexandra Palace despite his failure to get over the finish line.
“When Mark won the frame he wanted to hear the roar of the crowd and then I just copied it I suppose when I made it five each,” he added.
“But there was nothing wrong with the crowd. It was a great atmosphere.”
There will be no Scot in the quarter-finals of the Masters for the first time since 1988 after years of success with the likes of Stephen Hendry, Stephen Maguire, Graeme Dott and Alan McManus.
“It’s not great is it? Not great,” Higgins concluded.
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