Mark Selby took his fourth world title with an 18:15 win over Shaun Murphy at a sold-out Crucible Theater.
Selby, who led 14-11 before the last session, is now Stephen Hendry’s record three crucible crowns out of seven.
Runs of 66, 68 and an outstanding 120 helped him break Murphy’s resistance in a high quality encounter.
37-year-old Selby collects £ 500,000 in prize money and moves up to second in the world behind Judd Trump.
New era of Selby domination?
Selby’s dominance, which was at the top of the world rankings during the time he won three world titles in four years, once seemed undeniable.
And while those days seemed to be over, his return to form under Chris Henry, who also coaches Murphy, and the quality of his all-round play suggest that he is more than capable of continuing to win the biggest snooker prizes.
Now only Hendry (seven), Ronnie O’Sullivan, Steve Davis and Ray Reardon (all six) have won more world titles than Selby.
And while he’s likely to turn his attention now to the usurpation of Trump, Selby’s 20th title also solidifies his place among the greats at Triple Crown events – which is Higgins’ nine-point record and him only behind Davis, Hendry and O’Sullivan placed.
“To win against Ronnie O’Sullivan for the first time was a dream come true – to win four times is something I could only dream of,” said Selby on BBC Two.
“Every time you get to a world final, do your best – it’s such a difficult tournament to get there and you never know if it will be your last.”
“My goal is to get back to number one in the world. You still have goals in your career. I’m going in the right direction.”
With the coach of both players, Henry, a fascinated spectator, Selby had already retained control of the game on Monday afternoon.
“Life was difficult” – Murphy thanks the Crucible crowd for the capacity
The final sessions of the championship marked a remarkable sporting milestone. For the first time since March 2020, a crowd returned to a major UK sporting event.
The 980 fans not only created a semblance of normalcy, but also brought a return to the crucible roar, adding to the nervous tension, especially when Murphy threatened an unlikely comeback – and the thought of a first final frame decider since Peter Ebdons 18-17 judged win Hendry in 2002 – with consecutive centuries.
When Selby was on the verge of victory at 17-13, Murphy fought his way back to 17-15 with an excellent show of vacuum potting, but a missing red on the left pillow put an end to his hopes of improving 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 that was a tough lead for him in a match of this caliber.
“Life has been difficult for everyone over the past 12 months, but I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who bought a ticket in the past 17 days.
“Sport is nothing without fans and we were thrilled to have everyone back tonight and a full house. It was very difficult for me this year with the travel restrictions, but you brought me back.”
With the comfort of a £ 200,000 runner-up check and £ 15,000 prize for the tournament’s top break of 144 in its second round against Yan Bingtao, Murphy can leave Sheffield with his head held high.
Elaine Murphy had expressed pride in her husband in a BBC interview on Monday, and those feelings are likely shared by fans who were delighted with the raw emotions he showed at times as well as his style of attack.
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