DEFENDING champion Neil Robertson won three successive frames to recover to 8-6 down in his bid to prevent Mark Selby from claiming a third Betfair Masters at Alexandra Palace in London.
Selby, the winner in 2008 and 2010 and last month’s UK Championship victor, led 8-4 at the mid-session interval to move within two frames of the £175,000 prize in the best-of-19 final.
But Australian top-seed Robertson put in a gritty response to wrest back the momentum and close the gap on his opponent.
The Jester from Leicester started the faster, brushing off the effects of his semi-final defeat of Graeme Dott, when he responded from 4-1 down to triumph 6-5 in a contest which finished after midnight.
An out-of-sorts Robertson saw Selby race to a 3-0 advantage, the third frame featuring his first century break of the final, 102. The Australian, who by comparison made six centuries en route to the final, attempted to stifle Selby’s momentum in the fourth frame in a tactical exchange. A break of 78 followed for Cambridge-based Robertson, as he opened his account before the mid-session interval.
A break of 84 saw Selby take the fifth frame and Robertson appeared likely to respond immediately as he accumulated 45, but a straightforward blue was missed, allowing his opponent to respond and take a 5-1 advantage.
With two frames remaining in the afternoon session, Selby was guaranteed a lead going into the evening session.Robertson missed a red to the centre pocket, bringing to an end a break of 63, but he recovered to claim the seventh frame and a score of 72 clinched the eighth.
Selby began the evening session quickly with a break of 67 to go 6-3 up. He then moved within three frames of the title by edging a scrappy tenth frame to leave Robertson facing a four frame deficit. A poor safety from Robertson then presented Selby with an opportunity in the 11th and he ruthlessly took it with a break of 32.
Again Robertson reduced the arrears before the mid-session interval, a break of 74 making the score 8-4.
Robertson still had to win six of the remaining seven frames to successfully defend his title and a missed red into the centre from Selby took his opponent to the table in the 13th frame.
In timely fashion, the Australian made 83, his highest break of the match, to move within three of Selby. Selby was looking well-placed to take himself closer to victory, only to miss an angled red into the bottom pocket at 50-26.
Robertson handed Selby a reprieve, though, when he skewed the yellow wide as he began the colours. It began a tactical exchange which Robertson appeared to be leading until he missed the brown, only to then pot the same ball from long range.
He added the blue and then Selby had a chance when Robertson missed the pink, only to fail to take advantage. Robertson took a comfort break, leaving Selby to contemplate his position.