Mark Selby rocked Ronnie O’Sullivan with one of the great Crucible comebacks as his tenacity and sheer appetite for the task was rewarded with a first World Championship title.
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 ran out an 18-14 winner of snooker’s ultimate prize, having been 8-3 and 10-5 behind and looking primed to become another in a long line of O’Sullivan’s victim in Sheffield.
He 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.
Selby punched the air in delight, the new world No 1 feeling the emotion before laying his hands on the trophy for the first time.
Selby said: “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.
“I want to thank all my supporters, my wife Vikki and the family and everyone who’s stuck by me.”
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 on Sunday. 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 added.
“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 dedicated the win to his late father David who died when his son was 16 – before he turned professional.
Selby said: “It’s not really sunk in yet. My father passed away when I was 16. I always said I wanted to win the world title for him.”
O’Sullivan said: “I want to congratulate Mark on a fantastic tournament. He’s been the best player over 17 days. In the end I was numb as he was too strong and tough.
“I have no complaints. I’ve never been in such a good place and have enjoyed these last 17 days. Maybe I would have thrown in the towel a few years ago but I tried my hardest.”