Mark Williams has won a third World Championship title after a gripping 18-16 triumph over John Higgins at the Crucible Theatre on Monday.
The Welshman held off a remarkable fight back from Higgins to complete his hat-trick of world crowns, a record 15 years after he last lifted the trophy in 2003.
Just like in that title decider against Ken Doherty and in the preceding final preceding in 2000 when he edged Matthew Stevens, Williams emerged victorious with an 18-16 scoreline after a bruising encounter that had numerous twists and turns.
Williams was never behind in the contest but there were times near the end when it appeared as though his opponent’s name was the one already etched on the silverware.
Higgins, chasing a fifth World Championship success of his own, typically refused to give up as time and time again he fought back to prolong the tie and make Williams sweat for glory.
The Scot was the slight favourite in most people’s eyes before the contest began on Sunday afternoon but it was Williams who made the much more assertive start, winning the opening four frames to establish an early buffer that he never really fully relinquished.
Twice Higgins managed to restore parity, first during the second session when he got back to 7-7 and again somewhat unbelievably in the final session when it looked as if he was about to rise from the canvas and land the killer punch.
Williams won seven frames on the trot to lead 14-7 but Higgins duly started to display his trademark battling qualities and never-say-die attitude to retrieve the situation and, with the scores locked at 15-15, there apparently was only going to be one winner.
Yet, Williams never represented a forlorn figure despite being forced to sit in his chair watching on as his fellow “Class of 1992” graduate mopped up one incredible clearance after another.
The 43 year-old finally stopped the rot in the 31st frame to edge back into the lead and extended the cushion further with a timely break of 100 to move to within the brink of the title.
In a clash of two of the sport’s all-time greats, there was still time for one final piece of drama as Williams, on a brilliant break of 63, missed championship ball pink, allowing Higgins to pinch the frame with a gutsy 65 clearance.
However, Williams barely blinked and was straight in amongst the balls again in what proved to be the final frame, constructing a run of 69 to help him over the winning post in what will go down as one of the finest Crucible showdowns ever.
The eagerly anticipated fixture that pitted two of snooker’s Trinity against each other lived up to every bit of the heightened build up and expectation.
Played at a frenetic and entertaining pace throughout, there was barely a prolonged tactical exchange to speak of as the pair traded big breaks all the way through from start to finish.
For Higgins, it will mark as bitter disappointment as he falls agonisingly short at the final hurdle for a second consecutive season in the sport’s blue riband championship.
The “Wizard of Wishaw” played his part in a barnstorming battle but ultimately left himself with just too much to do after falling so many frames adrift during the penultimate session.
Williams, though, is a fully deserving champion and it completes a superb season for the former world number one as he becomes the oldest winner in Sheffield since countryman Ray Reardon triumphed as a 45 year-old in 1978.
This time last year, Williams didn’t even qualify for the World Championship having dropped out of the top 16 and he was seriously considering retiring from the game.
But there were signs that he was improving, highlighted by his run to the final of the 2017 China Open when he was narrowly denied by Mark Selby, and a few months later Williams finally got back into the winners enclosure with a magnificent victory in the Northern Ireland Open.
A German Masters title in the terrific Tempodrom followed early this year but nothing will compare to his exploits over the last fortnight.
Williams pockets a cool £425,000 and will conclude the campaign as the number three ranked player in the world but all that will play second fiddle to his renewed status of world snooker champion.