Robert Milkins fears time is running out for him to shake off his nearly man tag and break in to snooker's elite.
The 39-year-old was beaten 10-5 by in-form four-time champion John Higgins in the first round of the World Championship.
"When you play someone playing like that there is not much you can do about it," Milkins told BBC Sport. "He was too good for me.
"But I am running out of time. I am not getting any younger."
Gloucester-based Bristolian Milkins gave himself a chance after winning successive frames in the second session on Sunday to close to 8-5.
But Higgins knocked in a break of 69 and rounded off with a stylish 106 to seal victory.
"I don't think many players would have kept him under control," said Milkins.
"John just played a lot better than me and 10-5 is probably a fair scoreline. I have not seen him that sharp for four or five years. It will take a good man to beat him on that form.
"He scored really well, didn't let up and played some really good stuff."
Milkins has been in and around the top 16 players for the past three seasons, with a highest ranking of 12.
But he has yet to reach a ranking event final, despite three quarter-final and three semi-final appearances in the past two seasons.
"My game is still good and I suppose when you get to the latter stages you need one or two breaks," said Milkins. "I probably haven't helped myself, but I haven't really had them.
"I am glad the season is finished. It's been a long season and I have been everywhere. It will be nice to have a couple of weeks off.
"I have had a fairly good season but have come up short in a couple of tournaments.
"It could have been different in the China Open, where I lost to Mark Selby [in the quarter-finals]. If I had beaten Selby I would have probably won the tournament. It's near misses again.
"I will have a month off now, refresh and maybe go away for a week and try again next season."