Peter Ebdon has won the 2012 China Open in Beijing after a dramatic encounter with Stephen Maguire ended 10-9 to the Englishman.
It ends a remarkable week for the 41 year-old who had to qualify just to be on the plane to the Far East, as well as enduring the inconvenience of a wildcard round on arrival.
The 2002 world champion, whose last major title came at this event in another surprise triumph back in 2009, has certainly achieved his success the hard way – in more ways than one.
Ebdon’s route to the final was more than difficult but he dispatched of Matthew Stevens, John Higgins, Neil Robertson and home favourite Ding Junhui before an arduous crowning battle with Maguire.
In the best of 19 clash for the title, only half a dozen frames were completed before both players were pulled off for the end of the opening session, which was originally formatted for three frames extra.
A succession of monstrous frames – culminating in an hour-long fifth – sent the schedule out the window, though, meaning that play ended close to 1am in China upon the final’s eventual conclusion.
That first session was hard work, both for the players and the fans, as very little fluency was built up by either competitor.
This, of course, is something that suits Ebdon far more than Maguire, indeed it is both a requirement of the former’s style of play nowadays as well as a tactic to put his opponent off rhythm.
That said, the length it took at times for Ebdon to compile a break or deliberate the upcoming shot borderlined ridiculous and was the key reason for play being suspended early.
Nevertheless, the now 9-time ranking event champion would have had no qualms about this having established an early 5-1 lead with the aid of two centuries sandwiching the other scrappy exchanges.
The evening session was of much more enjoyable viewing as Maguire began to fight his way into the tie.
The Scotsman won three of the opening four frames to trail 6-4 at the mid-session interval before Ebdon regained his three frames cushion with a 103 century break.
The pair traded breaks of 65 to share the next two frames before Maguire went on a run of more than 200 unanswered points to capture three on the trot and square the match at 8-8.
Even after all that, Ebdon’s mental reserves are legendary and, despite looking completely out of sorts, he refocused his mind to knock in a fourth ton and go one away from glory.
He had opportunities in the penultimate frame to seal the deal but missed a succession of difficult reds and, when he botched a safety shot, Maguire steeled himself to clear and force a dramatic decider.
After the players shook hands, it was Maguire who had the early chances but, as was the case in the entire match, failed to acquire the necessary added luck when in amongst the balls searching for prime position.
After a tit-for-tat, Ebdon produced arguably the shot of the tournament to pot a long red from baulk and, even though he needed two bites at the cherry, he finally emerged victorious to cheque £75,000.
There are many who disparage Ebdon’s style of play but that’s just it – it is his own and he is entitled to it, although he may have to adapt a little to the shot-clock Premier League to which he now earns an invite to.
The manner in which he goes about his business and the effort expelled while doing so has got to be applauded and he thoroughly deserves to be back under the limelight in the twilight of his career.
Ebdon has a couple of weeks to prepare for his qualifying match for the World Championships and all of the Top 16 players will be secretly hoping that he loses because nobody would fancy taking on the former champion in this mood.
For Maguire, it is a case of another failure in a ranking event final – his third now in just over 12 months and fifth overall.
Yet, the 31 year-old should take a lot from this final because, unlike the other recent brace of losses, he came from behind, fought valiantly until the very end and didn’t let his emotions get the better of him, as has happened so often in the past.
It’s now April, folks and that means the next five weeks will be all about the race to Sheffield and the Crucible itself. And that’s not a joke. Enjoy!
The full draw and results for the China Open can be viewed by clicking here.