A match does not always have to end in victory for it to carry real significance, and that was certainly the case for John Higgins in his match against Mark Allen at the 2015 Masters.
Reflecting on that contest ahead of Thursday’s last-16 clash at the Betway UK Championship, certainly on paper one of the match-ups of the round, it is now clear that even though Higgins lost 6-4 at Ally Pally it was a turning point and a catalyst for his recent renaissance.
It is not often that a player makes three centuries, other breaks of 96 and 59 in a best of 11, and come away with only four frames won and a loss against their name.
The Scot had endured a torrid time, having not won a ranking event at that time for almost two and a half years, and he had been plagued with issues of confidence, form, technique and equipment, unable to find a tip and a frame of mind to turn things around.
Some of those frustrations were taken out on the media at that time, as Higgins wrestled with the pain of regular defeats to players that he previously would have beaten relatively easily. It is of course much easier to speak afterwards when you are winning matches and titles, but fulfilling such obligations properly when you lose and it is hurting must be part of a pro’s make-up.
But in that match Higgins played superbly, as did Allen, and was aware enough afterwards to be reasonably upbeat about his performance in marked contrast to previous months, noting that a lot of things were coming together and signalling hope for the future.
Higgins has admitted since that during this tough spell thoughts that he might never again compete with the very best players on tour, or lift trophies, had entered his head.
But in much the same way that one match at the German Masters in 2012 may have transformed Ronnie O’Sullivan’s recent career, the incredible first-round recovery from 4-0 down to win 5-4 against Andrew Higginson, so it may have been for Higgins.
In O’Sullivan’s case that great escape led to a first title for more than two years, and a tangible confirmation that the methods of Steve Peters were actually working that led further to a fourth world title later that year.
And for Higgins, he was within a few short weeks back in the winners’ circle at the Welsh Open in Cardiff, beating Ben Woollaston in the final. That opened the floodgates, and further ranking titles in Australia and China soon followed in the same calendar year.
Higgins has kicked on again this year, with an extraordinary month of November that saw him earn north of £340,000 having won the China Championship, Champion of Champions, and made an eighth 147 maximum break in Northern Ireland.
That included an emphatic 9-3 win in the China Championship semi-final over Allen, who had won their previous four encounters including the sliding doors moment in north London. The next renewal will be eagerly anticipated in York.