A typically determined Mark Selby captured his first ranking title of the season after emerging from a gruelling battle with John Higgins a 10-9 victor in the China Championship final on Sunday.
The world number one won the last two frames to see off the Scot in what was a repeat of the 2007 and 2017 World Championship finals.
After Higgins pegged back an early 3-1 deficit to restore parity after the first mid-session interval, there was never more than a single frame between the dogged pair in the contest.
Despite a 118 century break from Selby in the eighth frame, a standout break of few in the lengthy encounter overall, Higgins was the one with the advantage after the opening bout of play as he secured a narrow 5-4 lead heading into the evening session.
From the resumption of play, the grind intensified and the two players with arguably the finest B-games in the world never looked willing to yield to a submissive defeat.
Whoever was going to lift the trophy would have to do it having exhausted himself and the completion time of well beyond midnight local time underlined just how much effort the duo put into being on the winning side.
It wasn’t the prettiest of matches and several of the frames dragged on following bouts of arduous safety duels but it was very much a different style of the game to be enthralled by.
The final ebbed one way and then the other with the lead changing hands on several occasions.
It looked as though Higgins stole a crucial march in the 17th frame when Selby rattled the final black on a clearance, allowing the four-time world champion in to sink the last ball and an apparent boost towards the winning post.
But Selby dug the deepest as he so often has done in his career when the odds have been stacked against him and the 35 year-old prevailed in the final two frames to complete his 15th ranking event success – taking him into sixth on the all-time list.
For Higgins, it was a devastating way to lose after putting so much energy into what was his 49th ranking event final and his search for a 31st crown, and first since last season’s Welsh Open, will go on a little longer.
Selby, though, highlighted once again why he has spent so long at the top of the rankings, a stretch at the summit of the standings that dates back to February, 2015.
The Leicester man, who earned a champion’s cheque for £150,000, somehow can be triumphant in not only matches, but entire tournaments, without playing anywhere near his full potential.
There’s still a very strong possibility, with a lot of ranking points to defend and world champion Mark Williams hot on his heels, that Selby could finally lose his grip on top spot at some point during this campaign but it would obviously be foolish to completely write him off such is his pedigree for claiming the more lucrative titles.
In the three and a half years since winning the German Masters and returning to the number one position in the world, six of Selby’s ten ranking glories have come in rich tournaments in China while three out of the remaining four have occurred in either the World or UK Championships.
He might not have won over too many new fans following a somewhat brutal display against Higgins but it’s hard to argue with his results and it’s perhaps fitting that the “Wizard of Wishaw” was the man on the other side of the table because Selby has, for many onlookers, overcome the 43 year-old as the best all-round player.
— Mark Selby (@markjesterselby) September 30, 2018