An enthralling climax to the 2011 Shanghai Masters resulted in Mark Selby winning the last three frames to pip Mark Williams 10-9 to claim the second ranking event title of his career.
The victory took on added significance for the Englishman as it guaranteed he will officially become the ninth world number one when the rankings are updated in October – rising above Williams himself.
Resuming at 5-4 ahead following some excellent snooker in the morning, Selby won the opening frame of the evening session before the match became continuously scrappy but no less dramatic.
Williams reduced the arrears back to one before Selby once more pulled away in a ding-dong encounter.
It was here, though, that it seemed that the Welshman was going to take charge of proceedings as he went on a four frame winning streak that brought him to within a frame of triumph at 9-7.
It also initially raised questions again on Selby’s temperament on the big occasion – despite being a two-time Masters champion, the Leicester man has been branded by some critics to be overly negative in major finals, so much so that it has cost him in the past.
However, the tie changed dramatically in the 17th frame when, 40 points behind and in a nasty snooker, Selby played a hit and hope shot that immediately caused controversy in the arena.
Referee Eirian Williams judged that Selby hit the red but namesake and player Mark Williams disagreed and felt it was a foul having made contact first with the pink.
After a lengthy discussion that involved looking repeatedly at slow-motion replays, the trio decided that the referee had made the correct decision but Williams’ concentration evaporated.
By contrast, Paul Hunter Classic champion Selby had a new lease of life and, having taken that frame, forced a decider when his opponent missed the green in a guilt-edged opportunity for glory.
In the final frame, Selby got in first and protected an early lead to coax to a remarkable and enthralling tournament victory.
While some may have labelled Selby as having a poor record in ranking event finals, it will now be Williams that will have all eyes on him the next time he finds himself in a similar situation.
In the last twelve months, the 36 year-old has lost the UK Championship final 10-9 having led 9-5, the Australian Open final 9-8 having led 8-5 and now a repeat in China.
It is a wonder because it is generally perceived that he boasts one of the coolest attitudes in the sport – on the exterior at least.
Selby, though, will be absolutely delighted following his third tournament win of the season after PTC 4 and the Wuxi Classic at the outset of the campaign.
The Englishman finally adds to the Welsh Open title he claimed more than three years ago in terms of major ranking titles and, with renewed confidence going forward, could be a major force over the next period.
Selby will now turn his attention to the Brazilian Masters as the inaugural South American invitational event commences later in the week.
From one side of the globe to the other, Selby now knows that he will be on top of the world in a few weeks time.
To view the full draw, click here.
UPDATE: Mark Williams’s damning post-match reaction can be viewed by reading Dave Hendon’s blog here.