Mark Selby has won the 2016 UK Championship after a marvelous 10-7 victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan in York.
In a final which had a bit of everything, the ‘Jester’ once again had the last laugh in one of the sport’s biggest rivalries.
While O’Sullivan was chasing a record-equaling sixth UK crown, Selby was bidding for a second which would enable him to join the illustrious group of multiple Triple Crown champions.
The first session began with a bang as the ‘Rocket’ raced to the opening frame with a superb 124 century break.
The pair traded frames before Selby went on a roll, taking advantage of the more protracted exchanges to bog down his opponent’s rhythm as he claimed the next five for a 6-2 cushion.
Upon the play’s resumption in the evening, the world no.1 extended his cushion to five frames with a run of 56 before an onslaught from O’Sullivan gave his legion of vociferous fans hope.
A 134 before the last mid-session interval brought the 40 year-old to within two frames at 5-7, and set the tone for the remainder of what was a spellbinding contest between two of the game’s heavyweight performers.
Selby replied with a nerveless 137 total clearance of his own before a 130 from O’Sullivan, followed by an 82 which narrowly fell short of being another ton, reduced the gap to just one.
By this stage, the frantic pace was relentless and the body language from both contenders reached gladiatorial levels.
O’Sullivan knocked in another long red in the next to gift himself an opportunity to level but perhaps pushed the boat out on one occasion too many with a risky brown which, after it jawed in the middle pocket, allowed Selby in to compile the encounter’s second 134.
A nervy opening to what transpired to be the final frame provided chances for both, but Selby eventually capitalised on one last miss from O’Sullivan with yet another century, a 107 a fitting way to wrap up his second UK title.
It was just the showdown that everyone had been desiring prior to this hugely hyped duel.
For a second time Selby ruined a perfect record for O’Sullivan in the final of a major competition.
In 2014, the 33 year-old dented O’Sullivan’s quest for a sixth world title and he repeated the trick for the UKs on Sunday at the Barbican Centre.
It also marks the fifth time out of seven final meetings that Selby has got one over the player many regard as the best to have ever lifted a cue.
For Selby, it inflates a legacy which is continuously building at a rapid pace.
No longer can anyone chime with any degree of conviction that he doesn’t belong alongside the pantheon of great snooker players.
Selby has reigned supreme at the top of the rankings for an incredible 95 weeks, a feat which looks set to prolong until at least well into next year, and maybe beyond.
His ability to mix heavy scoring with tactical brilliance was underlined in his triumph today as he crucially orchestrated his initial lead when O’Sullivan struggled for momentum.
That the latter finished strongly will offer little in the way of consolation as it was so evident how much O’Sullivan wanted a comeback success.
It marks the third defeat in a big final this season for the former world no.1 and possibly provides the first glimpse into an inevitable decline that is eventually suffered by all the greatest champions of the baize.
John Higgins has proved time and time again that such a fall can be deceptive, but successive losses to foes Selby, Judd Trump and Higgins himself this campaign will have seriously damaged O’Sullivan’s ego – whether he admits it or not.
This moment, though, and potentially many more in the near future, belong to Mark Selby.