ANTRIM snooker legend Mark Allen has claimed his maiden Northern Ireland Open title after staging a remarkable comeback to beat John Higgins 9-8 in the Belfast final.
The local cueman twice led by two frames before Higgins battled back to level at 4-4 after the first session.
After sharing the next four frames, the four-time world champion Higgins won two in a row, which included a 136 break to lead 8-6.
Allen then surged back, winning the last three to seal an emotional win.
In a memorable week for the Antrim man, he hit a 147 in the first round before coming back from 3-0 down to stun three-time defending champion Judd Trump in the quarter-finals.
It was the sixth ranking tournament title of a career that also includes triumphs in the two big invitational events, the 2018 Masters and Champion of Champions in 2020.
“I've tried to play it down all week but I know what this means to me,” Allen told Eurosport after securing a win he described as a ‘dream come true’.
“I know what it means to these people and to keep this trophy here in Northern Ireland is a special, special moment I’ll never forget.”
Antrim Alliance councillor Neil Kelly Kelly said: “I was absolutely delighted to see Mark win this competition in front of his home fans in Belfast.
“He was never behind and the match was anyone’s to win at 6-6 then John Higgins took the next two frames to lead 8-6 needing only one of the last three to win the match.
“What happened next shows the true resilience and determination Mark Allen brings to the game of snooker. Mark hung in there and played some great shots to draw level at 8-8 with one frame to play.
“It really was edge of the seat stuff and the crowd played their part in what was a fantastic win for Mark.”
Mr Kelly said that Mark Allen is not only a world class snooker player he is also a great ambassador for Antrim town and does much to help local people and charities.
“Along with Antrim Sports Club, Mark and the members raise thousands of pounds for good causes including Riverside School.”
Commenting on Mark Allen’s win, the DUP’s Trevor Clarke MLA said: “I want to extend my sincere congratulations to Mark Allen on such a tremendous win on Sunday evening.
“The dramatic final had us all on the edge of our seats and he has made Antrim very proud.
“Mark has recently overcome huge challenges, both in his sport and in his private life, and has proven his determination to succeed.
“He is such an inspiration to us all.”