Anthony Hamilton has won his maiden ranking event title at the age of 45 after a 9-6 victory over Ali Carter in the German Masters final in Berlin.
After a slow start, the “Sheriff of Pottingham” fought back superbly from 5-2 down to reel off six frames on the trot and go within the brink of success.
Carter managed to hang in there a little longer but, with his first proper match-winning opportunity, Hamilton showed few signs of nerves to end a 26-year wait for a ranking title.
It didn’t look like the fairy tale was going to materialise earlier on Sunday when a weary Hamilton, whose gruelling semi-final with Stuart Bingham on Saturday ended well past midnight, lost the opening three frames.
Carter wasn’t scoring heavily but took advantage of a scrappy start to establish an initial advantage.
Yet, the fact that the ‘Captain’ was unable to build on that was arguably the incentive for Hamilton to produce a higher standard later in the evening.
Carter, who scored an even 100 en route to a 5-2 lead, could have led by four frames after the afternoon session but rattled a tricky plant before watching Hamilton clear with a 56 to draw to just within two.
That proved to be the catalyst Hamilton needed to make his surge for the line and he returned as the evening play resumed a different animal.
After reducing his arrears to one frame, the former world no.10 knocked in a superb 118 to level, with further runs of 73, 74, and 70 helping him to an 8-5 lead amid a series of no-miss snooker.
To his credit, Carter battled valiantly, compiling a sweet 83 to stay in the hunt for a second crown at the Tempodrom, but Hamilton was not to be denied with a composed 57 sealing the popular win.
After two previous ranking event final defeats, of which the last came 15 years ago when he agonisingly lost in a decider to Mark Williams in the China Open, Hamilton has finally fulfilled his potential as a professional.
For years Hamilton has been forced to listen to others chiming about him being the best player to have never won a tournament of this status, but for no longer.
And to think, that it was only a year ago that the Englishman was in serious danger of falling off the Main Tour entirely.
Indeed, Hamilton did drop outside the top 64 in the world rankings, where tour safety is guaranteed, and only regained his place with a late rally to break into the top eight in a separate Order of Merit list, offering a reprieve for his career.
Impressive performances in the English and Northern Ireland Opens, where he feathered the white in the deciding frame in a painful semi-final defeat to Barry Hawkins, appeared to represent the peak of his resurgence.
However, an incredible run this week in which he has beaten Mark Williams, Mark Selby, Barry Hawkins, Stuart Bingham, and Ali Carter – five members of the top 16 – is testament to the kind of form he has been able to produce.
With €80,000 for the champion’s cheque pocketed, Hamilton moves back up to 37 in the world rankings and is in the top 10 money-earners from this season.
But that’s unlikely to matter as much to him as the career-defining moment of emerging triumphantly with a ranking event trophy for the first occasion.
Hamilton, who has been a pro since 1991, becomes the oldest winner of a ranking tournament since Doug Mounjoy’s victory in the Classic in 1989, and it continues a period of sustained success for 40-somethings.
For Carter, it’s a disappointing conclusion to what has otherwise been another great stretch for the 37 year-old – already a winner this campaign in the World Open last summer.
Carter’s inability to land the title prolongs the Tempodrom voodoo of no player being able to win it twice.
Anthony Hamilton becomes the newest name etched on the Waterford Crystal trophy, and it’s hard to think of a more deserving champion.
That he was able to do in front of his parents, who he only invited on the trip as he thought it might be their last chance to visit Berlin, made it that bit extra special.