Ronnie O’Sullivan completed a third Shanghai Masters victory in as many seasons after beating Shaun Murphy 11-9 on Sunday in China.
O’Sullivan was given a stern test by the challenger but eventually managed to get on top and pull away at just the right time.
The success gifts the “Rocket” with a £200,000 top prize and, after several months away, reasserts his position as the sport’s most devastating competitor.
It could have been a very different outcome had Murphy built on a promising start that saw him win the opening three frames.
In an unusual first session, O’Sullivan fought back to lead 4-3 but then lost a couple of close frames on the colours to trail again.
Murphy had a golden opportunity to establish a 6-4 advantage but O’Sullivan managed to come away from the opening bout of action with parity restored.
The evening session began in similar topsy-turvy fashion, with Murphy unable to pull away despite being given numerous opportunities to and O’Sullivan just about hanging on even though his frustrations were coming to the boil.
This was never more evident than in the twelfth frame when, with Murphy a couple of balls away from leading by two frames, the “Magician” miscued on a break of 61 and O’Sullivan duly cleared with a 66 to level again.
The pair traded century breaks to suggest that a tight finish was in store for after the final mid-session interval.
But O’Sullivan began to assert himself, finding form at just the right time akin to how he fought back in both of his quarter-final and semi-final wins against Kyren Wilson and Neil Robertson respectively.
When a superb 124 century break helped him to a fourth frame in succession and a 10-7 lead, the writing was on the wall.
Murphy fought well and won two frames on the spin but, even though he had a shot at forcing the decider, O’Sullivan ultimately knocked in a telling break of 86 to seal it.
O’Sullivan’s Shanghai Masters victory means that he has now not lost in the tournament since 2016, a run of 15 straight wins.
The first of those glories occurred when the tournament was still a ranking event but it’s under its current guise that the 43 year-old truly excels.
The world number two loves high-profile competitions that boast elite fields and a hefty purse.
That O’Sullivan manages to win the Shanghai Masters on his first outing of each season is another impressive feat in itself.
People are, quite rightly, waxing lyrical about new world champion and world number one Judd Trump at present.
But O’Sullivan’s recent record on the tour is simply outstanding.
Since the start of last season the Englishman has played in a dozen events, reached the final in eight of those, and walked away with the silverware on six occasions.
Fans will be hoping that O’Sullivan and Trump can renew their rivalry on a more consistent basis during this campaign as it would certainly provide box-office material to savour.
For Murphy, it was a gallant effort but he’ll surely feel that this was another chance that slipped from his grasp.
The 37 year-old’s failure adds to the six ranking event title deciders in a row that he’s lost in, including in last month’s International Championship when he was denied by Trump.
That he is back in at the business end of events after a dismal 2018/19 term will be of significant solace, but it will be concerning that when he gets into the position to etch his name on the trophy he’s constantly now falling short.
There’s no shame in losing to O’Sullivan, though, who prolongs his reign as the sport’s best player with yet another Shanghai Masters victory.