Mark Allen left it late to claim the 16th and final spot for this week’s Champion of Champions – but did so with a first title for 15 months in Bulgaria.

The world No10 from Antrim is very much a confidence player, so the boost of lifting a trophy coming in to an important run of tournaments could prove invaluable.

The 29-year-old Allen pocketed the 25,000 euros first prize with an emphatic 4-0 final whitewash of Ryan Day in Sofia on Sunday night. And if he goes on to pocket £100,000 by winning again in Coventry, then making the trip to the European Tour event will have proved extremely fruitful.

A set of qualification criteria that had kept players on their mental toes meant that Ding Junhui occupied the final place a week ago, having recently won on the Asian Tour.

But the higher status accorded Euro Tour events meant that Allen bumped China’s No1 out of the line-up for the Ricoh Arena, with play starting on Tuesday.

He will play his first match and group semi-final against Barry Hawkins on Friday.

From the semi-finals onwards in Sofia Ding knew he was gone, with the previously-qualified Judd Trump, Shaun Murphy and Mark Selby all going down at that stage.

But Allen fended off the challenge of Mark Williams in the semi-final, and though Day beat Sam Baird to reach a first pro final since 2008 he is still waiting for a first title carrying ranking points.

With the exception of a month’s break over Christmas the big hits keep coming now, with the Champions followed by the Betway UK Championship, January’s Masters, and then the German Masters and the Welsh Open all within three months.

It is a time when season’s earnings can be made or lost, and all the players will be very conscious of that. Only John Higgins and Kyren Wilson have eased any financial pressure by winning big early on in the campaign, and it can safely be assumed both will want more success.