Mark Allen and John Higgins renew their Masters rivalry when they face off in the opening round at Alexandra Palace on Wednesday.
The former champions will go head to head in snooker’s most prestigious invitational event for the sixth time, with only Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White meeting more frequently in the tournament (seven times).
Allen has prevailed in four of the previous five encounters, including a 6-3 semi-final victory on his way to lifting the Paul Hunter trophy in 2018.
Although, two-time winner Higgins came through 6-5 in their most recent such meeting at this stage three years ago before going on to reach his fifth final.
The Scotsman will become the first player to make 30 appearances at the Masters, where he is gearing up for his 60th match – moving ahead of Stephen Hendry and behind only Ronnie O’Sullivan (80) and Jimmy White (61).
Higgins has reached three semi-finals this season at the English Open, European Masters and Scottish Open, but would love to convert those deep runs into silverware.
However, he boasts a bittersweet Masters record. Despite those two titles in 1999 and 2006, he has also suffered the joint-most first-round exits (14, along with Dennis Taylor).
Mind, Allen has not fared much better. Indeed, the Pistol has lost each of his last five matches since triumphing six years ago.
That included a resounding 6-0 rout by Barry Hawkins at this stage 12 months ago, despite arriving at Alexandra Palace off the back of winning the Northern Ireland Open and UK Championship.
Once more, he descends on London with two titles under his belt this season having triumphed at the Champion of Champions and Shoot Out, and will be desperate to stop the rot this time around.
The winner of this match will play either Mark Selby or Robert Milkins in the Masters quarter-finals.
Play gets under way at 1pm GMT on Wednesday and will be contested over the best of 11 frames at Alexandra Palace.
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