Neil Robertson captured the English Open on Sunday night after another exciting Home Nations final ended with a 9-8 victory in Milton Keynes.
The Australian won the last three frames to deny John Higgins, the second time in as many months that the Scot has lost in a final decider.
Even before the showdown began, the pair’s close head-to-head record and an impressive haul of 51 ranking titles between them ensured that the clash had the necessary ingredients to be an enthralling battle.
So it proved, with the outcome rarely looking definite as the pendulum swung one way and then the other before the tense finale ultimately settled matters.
Robertson, who had been denied victory in the 2020 English Open after a 9-8 reverse against Judd Trump, began stronger and won the opening two frames in front of a packed Marshall Arena.
Higgins responded to level at the mid-session interval, but the Wizard of Wishaw subsequently found himself trailing 5-3 after Robertson discovered his scoring boots to fire in a brace of century breaks.
Upon the evening’s resumption, there was an obvious transformation as Higgins began to grab a greater foothold on the fixture.
Indeed, the 46 year-old won four frames on the spin to overturn his two-frame deficit into a two-frame advantage heading into the final period of play.
However, once again respite changed the outlook, and after the following two frames were shared to see Higgins move to within the brink, Robertson’s late rally started to gain momentum.
Higgins had surrendered from the same 8-6 position in last month’s Northern Ireland Open title decider when he went down to Mark Allen in Belfast.
After Robertson’s contributions of 52 and 120 forced the 17th frame, a repeat occurrence appeared very much to be on the cards.
Higgins had an opportunity to score but could only manage 22, and his evidently more confident opponent pounced with a run of 65 to seal the top prize.
Robertson claimed a £70,000 champion’s cheque that takes him into first place on the early BetVictor European Series standings, and of course the 39 year-old was able to lift the Steve Davis Trophy aloft for the first time in his career as well.
With the English Open victory, Robertson also moves to 21 in his career tally of ranking titles and into seventh place alone ahead of world champion Mark Selby.
Higgins was understandably disappointed at the end of another tight defeat, but the signs remain positive for a player competing in his 30th year as a professional and one who still frequents the business end of tournaments on a regular basis.
Robertson admitted that he idolised Higgins when he was younger, but the Australian’s own longevity, and an uncanny knack to secure silverware in practically every season, continues to be just as astounding.
Featured photo credit: WPBSA