Masters 2019: Former champions Mark Allen and John Higgins knocked out on first day

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Defending champion Allen pots cue ball in tense decider
2019 Dafabet Masters
Venue: Alexandra Palace, London Dates: 13-20 January
Coverage: Watch live across BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, Connected TV, the BBC Sport website and mobile app.

Reigning champion Mark Allen and two-time winner John Higgins are out of the Masters on the opening day in London.

Northern Irishman Allen lost 6-5 to world number 14 Luca Brecel while Scot Higgins was defeated by Ryan Day by the same score at Alexandra Palace.

Brecel will face either Ding Junhui or Jack Lisowski in the quarter-final, while Day will play either Ronnie O'Sullivan or Stuart Bingham.

"Luca deserved it. I've got no complaints," Allen, 32, told BBC Sport.

Allen trailed 3-1 at the mid-session interval but levelled with a 136 break.

Belgian Brecel, 23, hit back with a 140 in a high-quality match that also saw seven half-century breaks.

World number six Allen knocked in a 99 to level at 5-5, but an error in the decider - he knocked a red into a middle pocket but the cue ball cannoned off the green into the opposite pocket - allowed Brecel an opportunity to win the match.

"It was so tough to get over the line in the last frame, but I managed to play a few safeties and [Allen] made a mistake," Brecel, who moves into the quarter-finals, told BBC Sport.

"Last year, I was always doing the right things but maybe not trying hard enough.

"This year, I said to my girlfriend and my parents that 2019 was going to be a new mindset: dedicated, just snooker and nothing else.

"It's working and I've been playing well the past few months."

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Brecel knocks out champion Allen in round one - best shots

Allen, from Antrim, won three titles last year, including his maiden Triple Crown title when he beat Kyren Wilson in last year's Masters final.

He narrowly missed the chance to win a second Triple Crown trophy in December when he was defeated by O'Sullivan in the UK Championship final.

"I didn't miss many pots but my long game just wasn't there and that's how he won," Allen added. "I was hoping for a chance in the last frame but it didn't quite come along.

"I felt like I had him in trouble in the final frame, but I think that was the story of the match.

"I don't feel I did that much wrong other than a few errors over distance. You get punished highly at this level and Luca has proved that he is a top-16 player. He played really good stuff."

Higgins, 43, who won the tournament in 1999 and 2006, won three of the opening four frames, including a break of 65, to race into a 3-1 lead.

But Day, 38, fought his way back into the match with three successive breaks of 52, 111 and 83.

The Welshman finished with a 128, the highest break of the match, to clinch the deciding frame.

"It was great to finish the match like that, in one hit," Day said after the match. "Even if he thinks his game's not in great shape, he's always difficult and clever with the shots he plays."

It was frustration for Higgins once again, who faced Day in a final frame decider in Shanghai earlier this year.

"That's twice he's done that against me this year," Higgins said. "It's the right result, he played a lot better than I did, I was pretty bad."

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Day knocks Higgins out of Masters - best shots

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