David Gilbert admitted he failed to fully find his rhythm against 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham, as his valiant debut run at the Masters came to a shuddering halt at the semi-final stage.
The 38-year-old had been among the stars of the tournament at Alexandra Palace with wins over world heavyweights Mark Allen and Stephen Maguire en route to the last four, but found himself with a mountain to climb early on against Bingham who raced into a 3-0 lead.
Having clawed his way back into the game with an impressive break of 131 ahead of the mid-session interval, Gilbert continued to battle but was ultimately undone by his world No.14 opponent.
And despite falling agonisingly short of earning a first appearance in a Triple Crown final, Gilbert insisted he had enjoyed every minute of the competition and that it simply just wasn’t his night.
He said: “I had a really poor start and missed a few shots that I really should have got - including one off the rest, which is an area of my game I know I need to improve.
“I managed to get a frame on the board with a great break to gain a bit of momentum before the interval, but the fifth frame then annoyed me more than any other part of the match.
“I had a good chance but played a poor cannon and Stuart came in and punished me. He’s a tough match player and he doesn’t give you opportunities easily so fair play to him.
“But even though I was playing poorly and struggling I was really enjoying it out there as I have done all week. I wanted to keep the match going for as long as possible.”
While Gilbert’s search for success ultimately goes on, the Derby-born potter - who made the competition’s highest break so far with 144 in the quarter-finals - is confident he has now established himself as one of the world’s best players.
And having enjoyed his first taste of the one of the most prolific tournaments in snooker, he is determined to return to North London stronger in 12 months’ time.
“It’s been a brilliant week and I’m desperate to come back next year,” he said. “The Masters is everything and more than I ever thought it was going to be and the crowd have brilliant from the word go.
“I’m pleased that I’ve shown I can play a bit this week. I can’t put tonight’s defeat down to nerves because I honestly felt as good as I have throughout the tournament when I went out there, but it wasn't meant to be and I'm sure I'll learn from this experience.”
Watch the London Masters LIVE on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with analysis from Ronnie O'Sullivan, Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.