Mark Selby claimed his fourth World Championship title with an 18-15 victory over Shaun Murphy at a sold-out Crucible Theatre.
Selby, who led 14-11 prior to the final session, is now three Crucible crowns off Stephen Hendry’s record of seven.
Runs of 66, 68 and a superb 120 helped him break Murphy’s resistance in a high-quality encounter.
Selby, 37, collects £500,000 in prize money and moves up to second in the world behind Judd Trump.
New era of Selby dominance?
Having been perched at the top of the world rankings during the period in which he claimed three world titles in four years, Selby’s dominance once looked unquestionable.
And while those days appeared to have gone, his return to form under Chris Henry, who also coaches Murphy, and the quality of his all-round game suggests he is more than capable of continuing to win snooker’s biggest prizes.
Now level with Scotland’s John Higgins on four, only Hendry (seven), Ronnie O’Sullivan, Steve Davis and Ray Reardon (all six) have won more world titles than Selby in the modern era.
And while he is now likely to turn his attention to usurping Trump, Selby’s 20th major ranking title also cements his place among the greats in Triple Crown events – equalling Higgins’ tally of nine, placing him behind only Davis, Hendry and O’Sullivan.
“To win it once against Ronnie O’Sullivan for the first time was a dream come true – to win it four times is something I could only have dreamed of,” Selby said on BBC Two.
“Every time you get to a world final you always try your hardest – it’s such a tough tournament to get there and you never know whether it’s going to be your last.
“My aim is to get back to world number one. You still have goals in your career. I’m going in the right direction.”
With the coach of both players Henry an intrigued spectator, Selby had earlier maintained his control of the match in Monday afternoon’s session.
‘Life has been difficult’ – Murphy thanks capacity Crucible crowd
The concluding sessions of the Championship marked a notable sporting milestone with a capacity crowd returning to a major UK sporting event for the first time since March 2020.
And as well as adding a semblance of normality, the 980 fans brought a return of the Crucible roar and added to the nervous tension, particularly when Murphy threatened an improbable comeback – turning thoughts towards a first final-frame decider since Peter Ebdon’s 18-17 win over Hendry in 2002 – with back-to-back centuries.
With Selby on the verge of victory at 17-13, Murphy clawed himself back to 17-15 with a superb show of under-pressure potting, but a missed red down the left cushion when well placed ended his hopes of adding to his 2005 title.
“Mark is super-granite, unfortunately for me,” Murphy said on BBC Two.
“I started well but he went into super-hard mode. He broke me last night with that three-frame lead which was a tough lead to give him in a match of this calibre.
“Life has been difficult for everybody over the last 12 months but I want to say a very deep and personal thank you for every one of you who has bought a ticket over the last 17 days.
“Sport is nothing without fans and we’ve been thrilled to have everyone back and a full house tonight. It’s been very tough for me this year with the travel restrictions but you’ve brought me back.”
As well as the consolation of a runners-up cheque worth £200,000 and a £15,000 prize for the tournament’s top break of 144 in his second-round clash with Yan Bingtao, Murphy can leave Sheffield with his head held high.
Elaine Murphy had expressed her pride in her husband in a BBC interview earlier on Monday and those sentiments are likely to be shared by fans who were delighted by the raw emotion he showed at times as well as his attacking style.