Shaun Murphy won the Champion of Champions for the first time in his career after he held himself together under immense pressure to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in one of the best matches of the season.
Murphy produced one of his best results in recent times to beat the five-times world champion 10-8 at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena
The final looked to be all but over when Murphy deservedly ran into a commanding 9-5 lead. But O’Sullivan then won three frames on the bounce to threaten an extraordinary comeback against the odds.
But a pulsating seventeenth frame saw O’Sullivan miss the frame ball green to force a decider and Murphy then cleared to get over the winning line and collect the trophy and the £100,000 prize.
It’s Murphy’s first major title since winning the Gibraltar Open earlier this year – though a big title you could argue had been coming as he has been the runner-up in two major ranking events this season – the China Championship and the Paul Hunter Classic.
Though he will not claim ranking points for his victory – beating O’Sullivan in a major final will give Murphy a major confidence boost.
SHAUN MURPHY’S ROUTE TO CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS GLORY
Group Semi-Final beat Mark King 4-2
Group Final beat Michael White 6-4
Semi-Final beat Luca Brecel 6-4
Final beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-8
Murphy earned a slender 5-4 lead going into the evening session after he potted a deciding black in a thrilling ninth frame.
And the evening’s first frame saw Murphy move two frames clear with a break of 86 after O’Sullivan found himself unlucky to have fouled potting the pink on the same shot he cut a red into the corner pocket.
For the first time Murphy opened up a three-frame lead when he dominated a scrappy eleventh frame to go 7-4 to the good.
And breaks of 56 and 74 in the next frame saw Murphy open up a huge 8-4 lead. This was fair reward for Murphy who was winning the tactical duels against O’Sullivan and making the most of the luck which fell his way.
O’Sullivan kept battling and reduced his arrears to 8-5 before the mid-session interval.
But Murphy edged closer to the title as a break of 71 saw him go 9-5 in front – just needing one more for victory. But he was left to wait for it.
A break of 54 helped O’Sullivan make it 9-6 before he made a brilliant break of 108 to gain momentum and make it 9-7. From looking all over – the chances of O’Sullivan completing a fightback win were on the cards.
A gripping finale looked set to be in store when O’Sullivan made breaks of 68 and 38 to close within one behind of Murphy at 9-8.
And It looked a decider was on the cards when the Rocket potted the final yellow to take a 71-49 lead in the crucial eighteenth frame.
But needing the final green to clinch the frame, O’Sullivan crucially missed it to the centre pocket and left it on for Murphy who needed to clear to wrap up the match.
Under huge pressure he potted the six remaining colours to get over the line.