• The Masters

Higgins fires warning with opening win

ESPN staff
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John Higgins is targeting a third Masters title © Getty Images
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John Higgins kicked off his bid for a third Masters title in style as he claimed a convincing victory over Ali Carter.

Higgins, who won the event in 1999 and 2006, was in irresistible form as he battled from behind to claim a 6-3 victory at Alexandra Palace.

Despite starting confidently, Higgins found himself 2-0 down after some clinical potting by his opponent. But the four-time world champion hit back in impressive fashion to book a quarter-final clash against either Shaun Murphy or Ricky Walden.

After a bright start by Higgins, a missed black proved costly as Carter produced a 64 clearance to snatch the opening frame by a single point. It was a similar story in the second frame, as Higgins made all the early moves, but when both players missed the black, Carter took it at the second attempt to take a 2-0 lead.

The World Championship runner-up was on course for a 3-0 lead after building early in third frame, but missed an easy red, and Higgins cleaned up with a break of 117 to reduce the deficit.

The Scot then closed out the fourth frame with 46 to claw himself level at the interval and he returned to the table with the momentum in his favour to take the lead for the first time. He found himself in a spot of bother early in the sixth frame, but escaped a snooker at the fourth attempt, and a fluid run of 97 put him firmly in command of the match.

However, a poor miss on a red allowed Carter to pocket his first ball in nearly an hour, and a fine response of 83 saw the Englishman stop the rot to keep himself in the contest.

But Higgins restored his advantage, coming out on top in a lengthy eighth frame, before sealing the victory with a closing 65 to condemn Carter to a seventh first-round defeat in eight appearances at the event.

Meanwhile, Graeme Dott edged out fellow Scot Stephen Maguire 6-5 to set up a potential quarter-final clash with second seed Judd Trump.

Dott charged to an early lead after breaks of 61 and 69, but Maguire hit back, winning three successive frames, including a superb 110 break in the third.

But Dott forged ahead once again, winning three in a row himself to move within one frame of the last eight. Maguire dug deep, claiming his second century break of the match to force a decider, but Dott held firm to clinch victory.

Trump faces Barry Hawkins on Tuesday.

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