By Alvin McCaig
A packed Crucible falls silent as the debutant moves with nervous haste to the table and prepares to take his first ever shot in the World Championship.
Mark Allen celebrates winning the world amateur title in 2004
Legs go weak and hands tremble as a TV camera reminds him of the millions watching his every twitch.
It is a true test of any sportsman - he is alone and exposed at the point of ultimate pressure.
Mark Allen has a cure for that feeling of loneliness. A quick glance into the crowd and he will have 50 friendly faces looking down on him.
An army of family and friends will descend on Sheffield to cheer on the 21-year-old from Antrim when he takes on former champion Ken Doherty in an all-Irish opener on Monday.
They will include his partner Reanne Evans, the women's world snooker champion, and their 11-month-old daughter Lauren.
Terry Griffiths, the 1979 winner, will also be on hand to deliver wise words into the ear of the young challenger.
"Of course I will be nervous so to have up to 50 people on my side for my first appearance is a big plus," said Allen.
"My family and friends are coming over from Antrim and Reanne's family are also travelling up from Wolverhampton.
"I am a homebird by nature so to see familiar faces from Antrim in the Crucible will be reassuring.
I played the best snooker of my career and everything I hit went in
Mark Allen on his final Crucible qualifier
"I get excellent advice from Terry Griffiths on how to handle situations like this and he is a great person to have in your corner.
"You try to block things out but I imagine I will only settle when I get one or two frames under my belt."
The former world and European amateur champion turned professional in 2005 and has made good progress in the qualifiers.
Allen gave a glimpse of his potential when beating Steve Davis and John Higgins in the Northern Ireland Trophy just five months into his professional career.
He has already joined the sport's elite off the table after signing for Stirling-based 110sport Management, which has Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Doherty among its stable of stars.
A top 32 place is almost assured for next season, giving him automatic entry to the final stages of the top events.
This takes away some of the pressure going into a tournament which Allen has dreamed of playing in since first lifting a cue.
Becoming a father has not sated his appetite for the game but instead given him an extra spur to succeed.
Mark Allen will have plenty of backing on his Crucible debut
Monday's game will see prolific scorer Allen (he is 11th in the number of centuries compiled this year) up against the pragmatism, experience and sheer quality which has made Doherty the current world number one.
"Failing to qualify last year was a huge disappointment so I was determined to make it this time," he added.
"I played Robert Milkins in the the final qualifier this year and I have never been so focused in my life. I played the best snooker of my career and everything I hit went in.
"I want to be world champion and world number one and you can only do that by getting to the Crucible and playing in the blue riband event, which has its own aura and is so special to every snooker player.
"Ken has won all our competitive games so far and is a tough opponent but I've done well against him in practice and I know what it takes to beat him.
"He won't blow you off the table but he doesn't give you many chances - I just have to capitalise on the few openings I get.
"My daughter Lauren will be there and I when I compete now I always want to win for her, she gives me that extra motivation and hopefully that will drive me on to a victory."