It was beyond midnight on Sunday when one of the last remaining occupants at the luxurious Celtic Manor resort approached his hotel room.
Unlike every other time, he had to fumble in his pocket for his key card. Because, in one hand, he held his trusty cue and, cradled in the crook of his other, a gleaming trophy.
Jordan Brown. Welsh Open champion 2021.
As he gently laid his prize on the table, reluctantly, as it felt like he wanted to cling on to it forever, he spied a Champagne bottle poking from an ice bucket on the table before him, a gift from the hotel staff.
And as he slumped to his chair and supped from the glass, he was at once transported to another time and another place and another drink.
It had been nearly five years since he was sat in his local after another long day, split between practising his snooker and his job as a convenience store worker in a petrol station.
As his friends called for another round, Brown called it a night.
“I was getting lazy,” the Antrim man recalls now, five years later, the day after the night that has changed his life.
“Messing about, going drinking with my mates. I just couldn’t be arsed. I wasn’t prepared to put the effort in. But I reached a turning point.
“I said to myself, ‘You’re in your late twenties now. Are you going to commit?’ I wasn’t getting any younger. It was now or never.”
Since turning pro in 2009, the game he had loved since his dad bought him a mini-table for Christmas hadn’t really loved him.
He only lasted a year on the circuit and perennial fruitless trips to qualifying school had constantly delayed his return.
“There were low times, dark times, but most people involved in snooker suffer from that,” he admits.
“It’s a difficult sport that taxes you mentally.
“I’d a lot of support from family and friends, with whom I could share the dark side. They also never stopped believing in me, they knew, as I did, if I put in the hours I could get my rewards.”
And yet, even though he was a successful amateur after falling through the professional trap door, that seemed to be the limit of his ambition.
But deep down, he felt he had more to give to the game. And that the game had more to offer him. “I’d worked in that convenience store for 14 years, getting up every morning at 5.30am but then afterwards, I was still going down to the club, putting in the practice. I never really stopped playing or believing.”
He finally made it through the doors of the arduous qualifying school – through which only 12 of 200 pass, most promptly reversing out 12 months later – and hints of promise emerged last season when he reached the first round of the worlds at Sheffield’s Crucible.
“My main aim was merely to secure my card and so achieving that took so much weight off my shoulders.”
Losing 10-6 to Mark Selby was no disgrace, but there was disappointment as he genuinely felt he had an opportunity to defeat the off-colour former world champion.
Last week, he had a chance for vengeance that seemed so unlikely to anyone not inside his inner circle, by the squeakiest of black-ball finishes in a final-frame decider.
“Sheffield was in the back of my mind, of course it was. It had been a good experience in that sense because I knew I had the game to compete with him and beat him.”
A comfortable 6-1 semi-final stroll against Stephen Maguire advanced him to last Sunday’s day of reckoning against the irrepressible Ronnie O’Sullivan.
“After my dad got me that table, I just fell in love with the sport and I used to watch Ronnie beating everyone.”
Except now he was trying to beat him, fired up by pre-match comments suggesting players like him, marooned outside the game’s elite, had no “fire in their bellies”.
“He’s looking for a response from players like us. I fancied myself. Once I can keep him in the chair, I knew he couldn’t score. I played the table, not the man.
“And I know he can be derogatory but he was genuinely delighted afterwards, more so than he would have been for a few others.”
As he supped his Champagne – “the whole bottle!” – he thought of his parents, girlfriend Caroline, his coach, Marty Brantwood, good pal Mark Allen from the Antrim Sports Club, and loyal sponsors such as The Country Garage BMW in Ballymena.
Propelled into the elite now, he takes on John Higgins in the Players’ tomorrow.
“I want more of this,” he says.
They call him the Antrim Ferrari back home.
His journey might just be beginning.