Mark Allen is the Northern Ireland Open champion after winning the last three frames against John Higgins to claim a 9-8 victory in Belfast.

Both players had a chance in the deciding frame but it was Allen who held his nerve to clear to the pink in front of rapturous support at the Waterfront Hall.

The match had been very close throughout as the Antrim native led 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2, but four-time world champion Higgins showed why he's considered one of the game's greats as he found form to come out of the afternoon session level at 4-4.

It completes a memorable week for Allen, who knocked in a 147 and inflicted a first defeat in the tournament since 2017 on Judd Trump in the last eight.

"I don't usually get past round one here so it is a real bonus," said before being presented with the Alex Higgins Trophy and a cheque for around €83,000.

"I have tried to play it down all week, but I know what this means to me, and I know what it means to the people here, so to win this trophy is a special moment that I will never forget."

The evening session started similarly to the afternoon one as Allen moved clear early on.

However, Higgins looked to have found a different level after taking the lead for the first time at 7-6. He knocked in a century in the next - claiming his third frame on the spin in the process - to leave himself on the brink of the title.

But Allen slowed things down, knocking Higgins out of his rhythm as the Scot grew frustrated. He took on a tricky black at 8-7 after some loose positional play but it wobbled to let the home favourite back in.

And he took full advantage to force a decider before completing the comeback.

"I cannot actually believe it because from 6-5 up I didn’t see a ball until I was 8-6 down," added Allen.

"I was just hoping for a chance in the last frame and I managed to take two chances to get it done.

"I wanted to play one of the all-time greats in Belfast, and John is right up there, and he is one of the nicest guys you are ever likely to meet. To beat John here is a dream come true for me."