Mark Selby defended his World Championship title with a stunning comeback to beat John Higgins 18-15 and secure his third crown in four years.
Selby, 33, had trailed 10-4 but claimed nine out of 10 frames to lead 13-11.
Higgins had a mini revival helped by a contentious refereeing decision, but Selby kept his composure to win.
The world number one is only the fourth player after Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan to claim back-to-back titles in the modern era.
The Englishman picks up a record £375,000 in prize money, retains the top ranking spot for the 116th consecutive week and gains revenge for the defeat by Higgins in the 2007 final.
No player had come back to win from a greater deficit than six frames in a World Championship final since Dennis Taylor trailed Steve Davis by 8-0 and 9-1 in their 1985 classic.
“I can’t believe it, I am still pinching myself now,” said Selby. “From 10-4 to get to 10-7 yesterday, I was over the moon as I had nothing left. He outplayed me yesterday. Today I came back fresh and was a lot better.
“When I was 10-4 down I was missing everything and had nothing left. I said ‘pull something together’. If you lose, you want to at least go down fighting.
“To have three world titles is unbelievable and to be one of only four players to defend it is something I could only dream of.”
- Frame scores and tournament results
- Murphy pot wins shot of the tournament
- How Selby turned the match around
Black ball controversy
Selby was 47-0 up in the 31st frame, and leading 16-14 on frames, when he potted a red before attempting to roll up to the black ball. It was unclear whether the balls touched and referee Jan Verhaas called a foul.
Selby questioned the decision and score marker Brendan Moore checked the incident on a TV, initially saying the cueball had hit.
The decision was reversed but Moore looked at it from another angle and said he was not sure.
Verhaas then said, “If you are not sure, I will stick to the original decision” and the foul stood.
John Parrott said on BBC TV: “I don’t think it touched, it did not quite get there and the referee got it right,” while Steve Davis added: “From one angle, I think it touched but from another I don’t think it did.”
Higgins took the frame and went just one behind at 16-15, but Selby took the last two he required.
Selby’s Monday recovery
Leicester player Selby was out-of-sorts during Sunday’s play at the Crucible, missing straightforward opportunities in the reds to hand his opponent the initiative.
But the 33-year-old, who was named ‘The Torturer’ by Ronnie O’Sullivan for his gritty victory in 2014 from 10-5 behind, showed similar uncompromising characteristics with a ruthless display.
The third session was the turning point, a slow, turgid affair when he won six out of the seven frames to hold the advantage by two frames.
In the final session, the pre-match favourite made breaks of 71, 70 and a 131 clearance following the contentious call in the 31st frame.
Selby also matches the record of five ranking titles in a season, previously achieved by Hendry in 1990/91 and Ding Junhui in 2013/14, and now has 12 in total.
|Multiple world champions||Most ranking titles|
|* in modern era|
|7: Stephen Hendry||36: Stephen Hendry|
|6: Steve Davis, Ray Reardon||28: John Higgins, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Steve Davis|
|5: Ronnie O’Sullivan||18: Mark Williams|
|4: John Higgins||12: Mark Selby, Ding Junhui, Neil Robertson|
|3: Mark Selby, John Spencer||10: Jimmy White|
Higgins’ hopes dashed
A dreadful collapse for Higgins means he missed out on moving into second place on his own in the list of most ranking titles won and remains one behind O’Sullivan’s five world victories.
Having come through a comfortable semi-final against Barry Hawkins, he was initially at ease against Selby, stroking in a 141 break which equalled O’Sullivan’s effort in 2012 as the best break recorded in a World Championship final.
But the 41-year-old lost his way on the final day, and late breaks of 88 and 111 were not enough, as he was left frustrated by his rival’s dogged performance.
The four-time champion has now lost two finals, but his run moves him up to second in the world rankings behind his opponent.
“Mark is granite, just granite,” said Higgins. “In the second session I had my chances, I missed a pink into the middle and I could have gone 9-3 ahead.
“That was a big, big frame. Mark cleared up under extreme pressure. He is a fantastic champion.
“It has been an unbelievable tournament, I gave everything. I came up short to a great champion. I’m proud of myself but he was too good on the day.”
‘Selby is an exceptional player’
Six-time world champion Steve Davis on BBC Two
When we look at the quality of players that are potential winners here, to think there is a dominant character forcing his way through is amazing.
Selby is an exceptional player and exceptional match player. It is going to take some young player coming through who takes every part of his game and becomes stronger to knock him off his perch.
We’re close to the ceiling of performance now.
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