Ronnie O’Sullivan has beaten Judd Trump 18-13 to win a record-equalling seventh World Snooker Championship title in Sheffield.
The tremendous triumph for the rampant Rocket means he matches Stephen Hendry’s tally for Crucible crowns.
At the remarkable age of 46, O’Sullivan also becomes the oldest World Snooker Championship winner.
O’Sullivan made his debut in the sport’s blue-riband event way back in 1993 – a year after turning professional.
Despite quickly becoming a regular winner on the Main Tour, it took a number of years for the Englishman to fulfill his destiny in Sheffield.
But after finally etching his name onto the trophy in 2001, it always seemed inevitable that he was going to land many more.
Further glories came in 2004, 2008, and 2012 before a magnificent defence in 2013 after he had taken practically an entire year out from competition.
A painful defeat to Mark Selby in the 2014 title decider seemed to set him back at the home of snooker, and O’Sullivan struggled with the media circus for many of the ensuing years.
But a victory in a pandemic-impacted 2020 tournament, played mostly behind closed doors, reinvigorated his history-making quest.
There was disappointment last year when his first attempt at equalling the record fell short in a dramatic second-round reverse against Anthony McGill.
However, this year the world number one was almost flawless as he powered his way past one high-profile opponent after another.
O’Sullivan initially looked in a spot of bother when he trailed first-round challenger David Gilbert 3-0 on the opening day.
But he settled any nerves with a century in the fourth frame and never looked back, beating his countryman 10-5 before consecutive hammerings of Mark Allen and Stephen Maguire helped him reach the semi-finals with ease.
Against John Higgins he again trailed 3-0 after a scrappy initial exchange, and with a poor recent record against his old Class of ’92 rival he would have been forgiven for feeling under pressure.
Five tons and an array of other sizable scoring contributions ensured, though, that he comprehensively defeated the Scot with a 17-11 scoreline.
The final then pitted O’Sullivan against one of his great modern-day rivals in Trump – a battle of the generations between a pair of the sport’s brightest talents.
It was a showdown that many had waited a decade to see, but it didn’t quite live up to the high expectations that were held at the outset.
An out-of-sorts Trump, perhaps mentally exhausted after his epic 17-16 victory over Mark Williams in the last four, didn’t settle properly until the second day of the final.
O’Sullivan, who had got embroiled in a first-session spat with referee Olivier Marteel, duly seized the opportunity and established a commanding 12-5 overnight advantage.
To his credit, Trump fought back gallantly with six frames out of eight on Monday afternoon to trail by just three again.
But a composed looking O’Sullivan came out firing for the final session in front of a packed and noisy crowd at the Crucible Theatre.
With Hendry in the commentary box on duty for the BBC, the famous record-matching moment came in the 31st frame with a superb run of 85, before a tearful embrace with the beaten runner-up.
A seventh World Championship title, which carries with it a top prize worth £500,000, also means that O’Sullivan will finish the 2021/22 season as the world number one.
And despite being not far off a half century in years, the question will now turn to whether or not a record-breaking eighth trophy in Sheffield may be on the cards.
Fit, healthy, and evidently still focussed, there aren’t many reasons to suggest why he won’t be challenging for several more seasons to come.
For now, O’Sullivan can revel in this momentous success, yet another in a glittering career full of them, as he stands on top of the snooker world once again.
Featured photo credit: WST