Ronnie O’Sullivan lost a match at the Dafabet Masters for the first time since 2015 as he suffered a 6-1 reverse against an inspired Mark Allen.
O’Sullivan had been seeking an eighth Masters title and third in a row, having lifted the trophy in 2016 and 2017. He looked at the top of his game in a 6-0 first round thrashing of Marco Fu, and in the mood to keep his golden spell going having won three tournaments since October.
But Allen wrecked the Rocket’s hopes with one of his best performances in recent years, making a century and three more breaks over 50 to record his first win over O’Sullivan since the 2011 Masters.
Northern Ireland’s Allen goes through to a semi-final meeting with John Higgins or Ryan Day at Alexandra Palace on Saturday evening. He’ll be aiming to reach his first Masters final and only Triple Crown final other than the 2011 UK Championship when he lost to Judd Trump.
O’Sullivan started well with a break of 75 to take the opening frame but he scored just one point in the next three as Allen fired runs of 65, 115 and 85 to take control. World number two O’Sullivan had a scoring chance early in frame five but made just 16 and Allen’s 81 put him 4-1 ahead.
Three-time ranking event winner Allen dominated the sixth to extend his advantage. In the seventh he led 48-35 when he missed the last red to a centre pocket. But it mattered little as O’Sullivan’s attempted long pot missed by several inches, leaving world number eight Allen to add 24 points and clinch victory.
“I played pretty well to go 5-1 up, my safety was good, my long potting was good,” said Allen. “You can’t go out there and be scared of Ronnie. I play more aggressive against him, I can’t be bullied by him. I wanted to stamp my authority early in the match. Even when I’ve lost to him in the past, I went out and was positive against him.
“I felt like he was definitely feeling the pressure, he is human. His reception for his break-off at 5-1 down was ridiculous! He’s got the biggest fan base in the game. It was an extremely tough match but I was up for it. It’s always an occasion playing Ronnie.
“I came here to win the tournament, I’m only half way there. If I play as well as the first two matches then I’ve got a great chance. I’ve got the game to win one of these Triple Crown events. I am confident I’m going to win one before the end of my career.”
O’Sullivan, who has been suffering from illness and double vision, said: “He deserved his win, good luck to Mark for the rest of the tournament. It was a tough match for me. I can rest up now and get ready for my next event.
“It’s not much fun when you’re out there but you’re not physically feeling great. I was struggling against Marco, but it was one of those days where everything went in. I gave it a go today but it wasn’t good enough. It’s better that Mark won as he’ll give the next guy I better game than I would have done.”