That's us done for tonight

See you at 12.45pm GMT for David Gilbert v Kyren Wilson, with Stuart Bingham v Shaun Murphy in the evening.

John Higgins beats Mark Allen 6-5!

Championship League
'Blow away the cobwebs' – Wilson begins title defence in style
9 HOURS AGO
Another great match - Higgins meets O'Sullivan next. Don't mind if I do.

Higgins 5-5 Allen (71-39)

Not quite yet! At the end of a brilliant break he opts not to pot the brown, playing safe with Mark needing a snooker. But it's left for him next shot, and down it goes! Now it's over!

Higgins 5-5 Allen (59-39)

The brown is close to the black cushion, but if John can keep taking blacks with reds I don't think he'll need it. He develops the difficult red - it's one of two remaining - and takes his blacks .. but he needs to get up for the yellow. He does it well! This looks like curtains!

Higgins 5-5 Allen (28-39)

Now here comes John! Each of them is going from thinking they've lost to hoping to win, and surely John will take this one? The balls aren't perfectly set, but I wonder if the reprieves have given John a sense of perspective.

Higgins 5-5 Allen (3-39)

John is feeling it, mishitting a red; Mark pots one, then misses the brown! Mark is feeling it!

Higgins 5-5 Allen (3-38)

But not for long. He has to go into the pack from below and sends the reds down the table so that he has nothing on to either corner. He has nothing on full-stop really so has to find a safety, eventually sticking the white close to the bottom cushion and behind the black. He's still favourite.

Higgins 5-5 Allen (3-31)

You could cut the atmosphere with an atmosphere-cutter. John misses a red with the rest then Marl takes on another hard one .. and sinks it. Lesson for life this, choose attacking options. And like I said right at the top, I think Mark takes this. He sets about making that so.

Higgins 5-5 Allen (3-8)

As we were saying earlier, Mark Allen loves deciders and attacks them in the proper manner. He sinks a lush long red, a very fine cut black .... AND THEN HE MISSES A SIMPLE RED! THIS GAME! Er, he's left the great John Higgins in the balls and near the black spot.

Higgins 5-5 Allen

An unbelievable yellow, screwed with such power, takes the white up to baulk where green and brown go down. The blue follows, and we're going to have a decider! John was a ball away from the match, turned it down, and now look!

Higgins 5-4 Allen (64-41)

Maybe John miscounted - seems unlikely, but no more so than not trying for match-ball. Anyhow, he gets Mark nicely behind the green ... and Mark makes a decent escape. And have a look! John then leaves the red over the pocket with a route directly to the black; Mark is now strong favourite for the frame.

Higgins 5-4 Allen (64-33)

A 46 ends when John opts not to play for the final red - in the middle of the baulk cushion - but to lay a snooker instead, Mark can only tie. Dominic can't believe it for that reason, saying he doesn't know anyone who'd do that. But in escaping, he reverses the situation, John fouls, and this frame is up for grabs ... ish. The final red is being chased.

Higgins 5-4 Allen (32-29)

What! Mark misses a red to that same right centre pocket! He'll be fearing the worst now, all the more so when a lovely kiss - off the red when potting the blue - opens up the table. This looks over to me.
This has been such an enjoyable match. John, though, maintains the edge and he sinks two fine reds in his first 12 points. But then he jawses the one which gets him on the black ... but the black does block off Mark's only possible starter. He's soon back too, but focusing on getting onto the next red, he misses another pink! He hit it too hard given how inaccurately (yes relatively speaking) he hit it, and this is as good as a gimme for Mark. Which isn't to say it's easy to win the frame form here, but when you were on the verge of going out, you'd've took it.

Higgins 5-4 Allen

John misses a red and calls the frame.

Higgins 5-3 Allen (0-67)

So Mark bins all but those and doesn't get great position on the first of them. But he manufactures a sensational pot diagonally across the table and into the green pocket - it was frame-ball - and John returns to the table immediately afterwards requiring two snookers.

Higgins 5-3 Allen (0-29)

A gorgeous long red from Mark necessitates another - he's getting settled into that cue - and as Dominic notes, Mark takes shots on when things get tight. it won't always work for him, but he'll always feel happier with losing than if he lost not taking it on. He's looking confident in the balls, but there are five reds proximate to cushions.

Higgins 5-3 Allen

This is why John Higgins is one of the five greatest players of all-time. He misses a simple pink that costs him a frame, then plays tidy, clever, composed snooker to take the next two. Brilliant.

Higgins 4-3 Allen (54-0)

This is relentless and remorseless from John, picking off the loose reds with pinks before position forces him to go into the pack even if he doesn't want to; he does and it works out ok. In not long at all he'll be one away.

Higgins 4-3 Allen (32-0)

Another glorious long red from John earns him another go at tight table; neither pink nor black are available ... yes they are. The pink goes to the centre and will then go to the black spot. That makes this a decent opportunity.

Higgins 4-3 Allen (13-0)

Another long monster from John, a red stroked right into the heart of the pocket. It's that that makes me think he's going to win ... and then, on 13, he misses the green, shut up me. I wonder if he got a little kick that sent it fat - either way, we're back playing safety.

Higgins 4-3 Allen

On 84, John misses a red down the cushion, but though there's no ton there is the frame and his highest break of the night. As Ryan Giggs would say, "He'd've took it".

Higgins 3-3 Allen (63-0)

I say still but yes, I did also say I thought Mark would win. But having seen what we've seen, I think he'll take it, and he's doing a pretty good job of regaining the lead.

Higgins 3-3 Allen (25-0)

A miss from Mark gives John a chance and he creams a red that was far harder than the pink he just missed. Though the match is level, he's looked just a little step ahead of Mark through the match and I'd still expect him to win.

Higgins 3-3 Allen

This is building up into a right old arse-nipper. The quality isn't quite that of this afternoon, but there's plenty of it nonetheless.

Higgins 3-2 Allen (39-44)

Not for long! A dreadful shot from Mark leaves the pink and develops the black! It's a long one for John, into the yellow pocket, but it's also routine ... AND HE OVERCUTS IT! THIS GAME! Mark then cuts home a good one, and the black will follow. The theft will give him a lot of joy.

Higgins 3-2 Allen (39-38)

He doesn't try to disturb either until the blue goes down, and he gets a little flick - enough so that he can slide it into the middle, but not necessarily enough to get in behind the black. So he plays safe instead, and the chase is on.

Higgins 3-2 Allen (39-31)

Mark sees off a red, but after potting the green he catches the near middle knuckle on his way down to the next. Then John misses his first long pot, goes in-off, and that might just cost him the longest frame of the match! But the clear-up won't be straightforward as pink and black are on opposite side cushions.

Higgins 3-2 Allen (39-12)

John gets his hand on the table but his second red, forced along the top cushion, rattles around in the jaws and refuses to drop. Mark can only manage a solitary red by way of riposte, but uses his safety to try and force John into disturbing the red that's stuck to the pink; he fails to oblige. Of course he does, and round we go.

Higgins 3-2 Allen (34-11)

But he's soon snookered, part of the yellow blocking the route to the red he'd otherwise be able to see - two others are punkt behind the pink and there's one other he can't reach. He misses once, then hits the pink, then kisses his red, and we're back to safety.

Higgins 3-2 Allen (34-1)

Higgins being Higgins, though, he's there for the task, but he can't drop onto the reds below the pink which eventually forces him to play safe, sending the blue onto the cushion in the process.

Higgins 3-2 Allen (6-1)

John's long potting has been on point tonight and he nails another red, but he miscues on the black so that's end of break. He then nails a plant - that's not something we see much of - but again, it's end of break. And have a look! Mark glides home a luscious long red, by far his best of the night, but he can't add to it either and then John bashes one hame - he's not missed at all tonight, and this time he's on a colour - the green. But pink and black are tied up, so there's work to be done.

Higgins 3-2 Allen

Another big break for Allen, a 92, brings him to within one.

Higgins 3-1 Allen (44-0)

As Dominic said, "Amongst the balls you can play with pretty much anything", and Mark is looking good in that aspect. It's just the long stuff that's bothering him.

Higgins 3-1 Allen (44-0)

"Some flukes are so embarrassing you just daren't apologise for them," says Dom, when Allen clouts a red to the corner and misses by a fortnight, then watches it zoom up the cushion and into the yellow pocket. That is majestic. And it presents him with a chance and he sets about milking it for all he's worth.

Off we go again...

Higgins 3-1 Allen

Dominic notes that Mark's safety game hasn't been good enough tonight - the chance he had came from a mistake by John, and he's not been able to create any for himself - so maybe it's the new cue bedding in. John can't force a ton, but a run of 88 puts him in control as we head into the mid-session.

Higgins 2-1 Allen (88-0)

Another poor attempt from Mark offers John a chance that he accepts, and his game looks to be in very fine order.

Higgins 2-1 Allen (28-0)

Strong safety play from John forces Mark to concede a potting opportunity and a red is duly hammered hame. But there's no colour available, so it's in behind the yellow for a foul-miss that leaves a tricky one; John opts to put him back in, but there's a strong hint of 3-1 about this nevertheless.

Higgins 2-1 Allen (23-0)

A good safety from John forces Mark to foul-miss and when the second go leaves an opportunity it's rattled home. But then he overhits a pink and when it comes out of the pocket it goes onto the black spot right next to where the white finishes, meaning end of break. That'll be a relief for Mark.

Higgins 2-1 Allen

A 56 followed by a 45 sorts frame three for the W of W.

Higgins 1-1 Allen (63-8)

Oh dear! John catches too little of a red to middle and suddenly not only has he lost the maxi but he might even lose the frame. Mark spanks a starter into the yellow pocket to ram the point home, but then misses the next red into that same pocket that rinsed John. That will be 2-1, I shouldn't wonder.

Higgins 1-1 Allen (56-0)

Yeah, he's going for this, sending a red into the green pocket and gently bumping another to keep on the black. But in the process he sends a ball into the cushion, so this is now a lot harder than otherwise. Come on John!

Higgins 1-1 Allen (32-0)

This looks like being another long one, and rightly so: this is the Masters. John quickly gets in and whaddaya know, he's four red-blacks down. He couldn't could he?

Higgins 1-1 Allen

Dominic notes that you only really notice a new cue with the long stuff but this'll make Mark feel better nonetheless. A run of 106 draws him level.

Higgins 1-0 Allen (1-43)

Gosh, AMark hits the wrong side of a long red; as you might think, it misses by a distance, and as you might guess, it leaves one for John. But with the table gaping he overcuts a simple blue and this is good opportunity to Mark to haul himself into the match. He creates a problem for himself when he has to attack a red to the middle from tight on the cushion ... but he drains it well, and this is a good chance now. John will be feeling very poorly at that blue.

Higgins 1-0 Allen

Mark leaves a red into the middle and that's enough for the frame, though he rattles in a few more balls anyhow.

Higgins 0-0 Allen (62-6)

Higgins does the hard work then just as he looks primed for a frame-winning contribution he over-stuns the white so undercuts the red. But he's quickly back at the table and you can see that he's feeling good. I'm pretty sure he'll win the frame from here. But no! He misses the black when 56 ahead and with 59 on the table, so there'll be a few more shots here yet.

Higgins 0-0 Allen (7-6)

Allen has just recovered from corona so hasn't practised much and is also using a new cue, so maybe I was talking guff when I said I expected him to win. Not gonna lie, it has happened before. And Allen misses his first long pot of the evening, but not by much - it spins around the pocket before finally opting to do one. No matter, he gets in shortly afterwards ... but not for long, his run ending on six and offering Higgins a go at a reasonably laid table.

The players share a giggle backstage

Higgins has played 27 straight Masters now. Not bad.

Who's going to win tonight?

I fancy Allen, but you can't ever write off Higgins. If Allne plays well though, I think it'll be enough.

We've seen a load of good matches this week

Williams-Murphy on Monday night was particularly great, likewise Ding-O'Sullivan this afternoon. Hopefully we get something similar this evening.

Evening all

John Higgins v Mark Allen, let's be having you.

Right, that's the afternoon done

Join me at 6.45pm GMT for the evening session - and what could be another belter: John Higgins v Mark Allen.

Ronnie speaks

He had to hang in there because Ding started well and he couldn't get into the frame. He wondered if he was good enough to win three straight against a player as good as Ding, and didn't put pressure on him early in the game, but you can only play as well as your opponent lets you. He then says it took him a while to sort out his new tip and he couldn't wait for the season to end, so he'll now get himself another cue for the next time it happens.

Ding speaks

He says he had a lot of chances to win the match, but couldn't quite make it, "and sometimes confused myself". He says he still potted long ones, but blames "stupid shots" and says that Ronnie played a bit better in the second half of the match.

Ronnie O'Sullivan beats Ding Junhui 6-5!

That was a terrific match, and he meets John Higgins or Mark Allen next.

O'Sullivan 5-5 Ding (97-0)

At the same time, O'Sullivan has just won three straight frames against a very, very good opponent. he's not bad at this.

O'Sullivan 5-5 Ding (51-0)

Have a look! Ronnie then misses a red into the centre and leaves it ... but Ding finds himself on nothing after sinking it. He plays safe, leaving the white tight to the side cushion ... but Ronnie conjures a glorious pot into the opposite far corner! This is O-V-E-R OVER. Ding is a fine player, but he has a block when it comes to Ronnie. He should be in the bar three pints deep by now.

O'Sullivan 5-5 Ding (34-0)

Ding leaves Ronnie a tempter - long, almost the length of the table, and you know the rest. He cues it beautifully, clipping into the corner from close to it - that was a lot harder than the one ding missed in the last frame - and when he lands three reds and blacks, you start to wonder. But he then goes up for the blue, and mentally Ding must be in the foetal position, all the more so when Ronnie comes into the pack off green and cushion. This is a great chance to win f&m.

O'Sullivan 5-5 Ding

Everyone knows that Ronnie is a genius, and because of that they underestimate his competitive spirit. He effortlessly resolves the table, and this superb match is getting the decider it deserves.

O'Sullivan 4-5 Ding (56-17)

This is turning into another scrappy one ... er, scrub that, Ronnie has just trounced in a glorious long red, opening up the table. I'd expect him to secure a decider from here.

O'Sullivan 4-5 Ding (5-17)

So does Ronnie, and he gets a big round of virtual applause ... but he leaves a long red that Ding pots superbly, dead slow and into the corner, but he screws back hectare too far when looking for his next red and invites Ronnie to the table with a starter nicely available. I make that five chances to win that have gone by.

O'Sullivan 4-5 Ding (0-12)

He's got a chance! Ronnie leaves a starter to middle and Ding doesn't muck about, careering into the pack off the blue. But he gets the pink full-ball and it absorbs all the power ... but there's a little poke to top left which goes down. But he finishes on nothing following another blue so plays safe.

O'Sullivan 4-5 Ding

Ding had three chances to bring that one home and botched them all. Can he recover?

O'Sullivan 3-5 Ding (59-48)

This game, I don't know. Ronnie leaves Ding a red very close to the top left - this is near enough match-ball - and he misses it! That was bad even Ronnie, sat in his seat, appears to wince. And he leaves it too, so Ronnie - who I keep forgetting to say has gone for the top button undone, tie askew look today - gets to work. The nerves must've beaten Ding there, so he now needs to find a way to right his mind.

O'Sullivan 3-5 Ding (25-48)

Oh gosh! Ronnie sorts one of the remaining reds but jawses the brown, leaving Ding a starter. There are now two reds left, close to the black cushion, but his cannon off the pink doesn't work so he yanks the white up to the baulk cushion. Nothing on the table is safe, so finding a good safety shot there is very impressive.

Full Masters schedule

First round
Sunday January 10
  • Kyren Wilson 6-2 Gary Wilson (1pm)
  • Joe Perry 2-6 David Gilbert (7pm)
Monday January 11
  • Stuart Bingham 6-4 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (1pm)
  • Shaun Murphy 6-4 Mark Williams (7pm)
Tuesday January 12
  • Neil Robertson 5-6 Yan Bingtao (1pm)
  • Mark Selby 3-6 Stephen Maguire (7pm)
Wednesday January 13
  • Ronnie O'Sullivan 6-5 Ding Junhui (1pm)
  • John Higgins v Mark Allen (7pm)
Quarter-finals
Thursday January 14
  • Gilbert v Wilson (1pm)
  • Bingham v Murphy (7pm)
Friday January 15
  • Higgins / Allen v O'Sullivan v Ding (1pm)
  • Maguire v Yan (7pm)
Semi-finals
Saturday January 16
  • TBC v TBC (1pm)
  • TBC v TBC (7pm)
Final
Sunday January 17
  • TBC v TBC (1pm, 7pm)

HOW TO WATCH THE MASTERS 2021 TV AND LIVESTREAM

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