Mark Selby secured his third World Championship title in four seasons after beating John Higgins in one of the most gripping finals seen in years.
Selby, who is single-handedly dominating the sport, to the likes of how Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis once did, made it world title number three by beating the Scot 18-15 late on Monday night.
His successful defence of the trophy he won for a second time just twelve months ago means he joins an elusive list including Davis, Hendry and O’Sullivan to have defended their crown at the Crucible.
And what made this year’s so special was Selby had to earn it with Higgins dominating early on with the Scot taking a healthy 10-4 lead at one stage.
But the turning point came late in the second session when Selby won three frames on the bounce to trail just 10-7 overnight when he had been outplayed by Higgins who was looking on the cards to win a fifth world title following his successes in 1998, 2007, 2009 and 2011.
That comeback gave Selby the momentum to make a great start today in the afternoon session winning the opening two frames to move just one frame behind.
Higgins stopped the rot but that didn’t stop the world number one winning a further four frames in a row to go into the final session leading 13-11 and pulling off a remarkable comeback.
SELBY’S RANKING TITLES THIS SEASON
Paul Hunter Classic
And at one point it looked there was going to be only winner as Selby dominated the first mini-session to take a commanding 16-12 lead at the mid-session interval.
But it was by no means over as a rejuvenated Higgins fought back winning three frames in a row including winning a controversial frame which saw referee Jan Verhass call a foul on Selby when it was debatable whether the cueball made contact with the black when the world number one attempted to play a snooker.
However Selby brushed that aside in the very next frame with a superb break of 131 under immense pressure.
And Selby became a three-time world champion about 30 minutes later when he dominated the next frame to seal the title.
Victory also ensured Selby collected the biggest ever cash prize out to a world champion – a sum of £375,000. Next year that will go up to £425,000.