Ding Junhui has won the Shanghai Masters for a second time after a wonderful 10-6 victory over Mark Selby in China on Sunday.
In a repeat of the World Championship final in May, Ding gained a modicum of revenge over the Crucible champion to record his 12th ranking event success.
The final was a thrilling affair which ebbed one way and then the other, with a barrage of big breaks from both setting the tone for a fast-paced and attacking showdown.
The two in-form players at present, Ding’s triumph adds to his earlier victory in the 6 Red World Championship this month, in turn denying Selby what would have been consecutive ranking event titles following the 33 year-old’s Paul Hunter Classic win in August.
Only two frames in the final lacked breaks above 50 as both competitors went full throttle in front of a packed auditorium at the Shanghai Grand Stage.
The enthusiastic crowd was inevitably in staunch support of their home favourite Ding but, as has been the case all week, the fans were fully respectful of the visiting world number one.
And it was Selby who got off to the quicker start, countering Ding’s 115 with runs of 108 and 74 to lead 3-1 at the mid-session interval.
Thoughts must have been turning to their epic encounter in Sheffield when Selby was in with an opportunity to extend his advantage further – remembering how Ding trailed 6-0 early on in their world title affair – but the Chinese no.1 capitalised on rare errors with breaks of 53, 59, 52 and 75 to win five frames on the spin for a 6-3 first session lead.
Upon the final’s resumption it was always a distinct possibility that Selby, known for his mastery of brinkmanship, could launch a comeback.
So it proved, as the 2011 champion suddenly found his scoring shoes again to even the scores up with a succession of single scoring visits – including a fantastic 102.
However, Ding steadied the ship before the last interval respite with a superb 97 to regain the lead at 7-6, and never looked back as he reeled off the next three for a famous win.
Selby tried his best to fight back from a snookers required scenario in the 16th frame, but it was one step too far as he failed in his attempt to land a ninth ranking event crown.
It’ll be a disappointing end to the week for the ‘Jester’, but overall he must be delighted with his form in recent months.
For Ding, it fully completes his turnaround in fortunes after a dreadful couple of years on the circuit saw him drop from a brief spell as the world’s highest ranked player to crashing outside the top 16 at the tail end of the last campaign.
Of course, his run to the world final quelled any doubts about his overall pedigree in the game and, with his second successive title on the Main Tour, he is certainly now back to his very best.
It’ll be interesting to see how often Ding and Selby will continue to find themselves facing each other at important junctures of the coming months as a budding rivalry begins to blossom.
For now, Ding will revel in adding to his 2013 success on home soil in the Shanghai Masters – a win that began his record-equalling five ranking event victories of that same season.