Mark Selby on top of World after staggering comeback snatches title
Mark Selby completed one of the greatest World Championship final comeback victories in Sheffield to beat five-time champion Ronnie O'Sullivan 18-14.
The great 'Grinder' of the sport, Canada's Cliff Thorburn, was on hand to witness Selby gnaw at O'Sullivan's supreme confidence, wearing down the man who was chasing a third successive world title, and sixth of his career.
Selby clinched it with an exceptional clearance of the colours, holding his nerve as though it was he who had won this title five times in the past.
Afterwards, he punched the air in delight, the new world No 1 feeling the emotion before laying his hands on the trophy for the first time.
"(It's) amazing really. It couldn't be better. You want to win it with Ronnie in the tournament and there's no better way than playing him in the final," he said.
Reflecting on his comeback, he added: "I was just my usual self, dug in and never gave in. I didn't play pretty snooker early in the match but towards the end I played well.
"It was a tough day yesterday. The last two frames were huge. To get back to 10-7 – any other score, I had no chance."
Having lost the finals of this season's UK Championship and World Open, Selby was relieved to find his form on the big occasion this time around.
"I was sort of half-dreading coming to the World Championship because my form wasn't great," he said. "I got back from China, I didn't play that well out there, and I just put in the hard work. Something seemed to click, and I came here confident."
Selby, who began the day 10-7 behind, pocketed breaks of 55, 58, 62, 55, 52 and 74 in winning 12 of the next 16 frames from an original 8-3 deficit to open up a three-frame lead. Not since 1992, when Stephen Hendry famously won 10 frames in a row from 14-8 down to beat Jimmy White 18-14, had the Crucible crowd witnessed such an amazing turnaround in the final.
Selby's comeback was staggering considering he had mustered a top break of only 42 in the opening 11 frames of what had looked like, at one stage, a one-sided contest against O'Sullivan.
Selby (left), who O'Sullivan once described as the "torturer" because of his grinding style, had struggled to find his form on the opening day of this year's two-day final.
But the 30-year-old started in determined mood in the penultimate afternoon session as he refused to let the £300,000 first prize slip away. Breaks of 55, 52 and 74 saw him edge 11-10 in front, the first time he had led in the match.
Having won the last two frames of the previous session, that made it a run of six successive frames for Selby as he battled his way back into what was proving to a gripping contest.
O'Sullivan responded with a break of 50 to restore parity, but with a 12-11 lead in his sights before the break prior to the concluding evening session, the five-time world champion missed arguably the easiest pink of his career.
O'Sullivan had the perfect start to the evening session as he compiled a fine 100 break – his 12th century of the tournament – to level proceedings. However, Selby won two scrappy frames to pull clear and made it a three-frame cushion with a break of 56 before the interval.