Pistol Allen aiming to outgun former Masters champion John Higgins

Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen (16/1 with Coral to win the tournament) and John Higgins take to the baize on day four at Alexandra Palace, with the Pistol aiming to progress past the two-time Masters champion.

Meanwhile, the cue sport’s new world number one player Ding Junhui kick-starts his bid to lift this trophy again against Joe Perry, in the 17th competitive meeting between the pair.

Here we preview ‘the Pistol’ hoping to advance past the 1999 and 2006 champion in a 2014 World Open quarter-final rematch, and ‘the Chinese Sensation’ meeting ‘the Gentleman’.

Mark Allen v John Higgins
Four-time world champion Higgins, 6/4 to win, is level with ‘All-in’ Allen in head-to-head meetings, with both players winning seven matches each.

However, it’s the prolific Pistol that has been in more majestic form lately, securing a win in the last three encounters with Higgins and claiming a PTC title this season, as well as reaching two major finals last year.

The pair previously faced off in the 2014 World Open quarters, as Allen edged past his Scottish opponent with a 5-3 win in China.

These two competitors have met in the Masters before, with Higgins (28/1 to win a third Masters title) haplessly losing 6-3 to a potent Pistol in 2010. The two-time ranking event champion is 11/8 to win and knock in the highest break of the match in their latest encounter.

Ding Junhui v Joe Perry
The ‘Star of the East’ has won the previous four match-ups with Perry and has emerged triumphant in 13 of their overall meetings. However, the last major upset came at the 2013 Wuxi Classic, when ‘the Gentleman’ dumped Ding out in the last 32.

A huge advantage in head-to-meetings makes the world’s number one ranked potter an odds-on 1/3 favourite for the match (enhanced to 8/11 to win and claim the highest break).

The previous two clashes between these players have ended in Perry being knocked out in last 16 match-ups, and Junhui will be hoping to continue that trend for a third consecutive tournament. Dominant Ding edged past Perry with a 6-4 victory in the 2014 Welsh Open semi-final, and a repeat scoreline is a 5/1 chance.

However, the Gentleman thrashed China’s potting superstar 5-1 in a 2013 Wuxi Classic last 32 meeting, and Wisbech-born Perry is 9/4 to cause another upset in this year’s Masters first round.