Luca Brecel defeated Mark Selby 18-15 to capture the 2023 World Snooker Championship on Monday in Sheffield.
Following a wonderful performance in the title decider, the Belgian became only the fourth non-UK champion at the Crucible Theatre.
Brecel, who will move to a career high of number two in the world rankings, receives the famous World Snooker Championship trophy and a mega top prize worth £500,000.
The 28 year-old generally controlled the final after winning the first three frames and establishing a 6-2 advantage during the opening session of play on Sunday afternoon.
As the number two seed and a four-time former world champion, most people had Selby as the pre-match favourite.
The Englishman underlined his pedigree in the second session with a remarkable 147 break – the first ever maximum in a World Championship final.
When the 39 year-old clawed his way back to just one frame behind heading into Monday’s last day, an all-time classic appeared to be on the cards.
But Brecel dispelled any notions of the encounter going the distance with a stunning third session that he again won by four frames.
The ninth seed compiled four century breaks to extend his lead to 15-10, and he stretched that even further to six frames with a 67 contribution to open the final bout of play.
One always felt that Selby, the master of brinkmanship, would fight back strongly and that’s exactly what materialised.
The Leicester man dug deep in trademark fashion to win five frames on the trot and again get back to within just one.
But Brecel, having not potted a ball in almost an hour, took advantage of a missed black from his esteemed opponent to compile a gutsy half-century contribution that helped him stop the rot.
He then held himself together superbly well with a fifth century break of the showdown to deservedly etch his name onto the silverware and into the history books.
Victory in the World Snooker Championship for the Bullet completes an amazing transformation of fortunes in Sheffield having never won a match at the Crucible Theatre prior to the 2023 edition.
Brecel held on in a close finish to beat Ricky Walden in the first round before back-to-back triumphs over multiple world champions in the following rounds.
Three-time winner Mark Williams was downed in the last 16 before Brecel overturned a 10-6 deficit to stun reigning champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals.
The best was still to come, however, as he conjured the greatest Crucible comeback in history – beating emerging star Si Jiahui 17-15 having trailed at one point by nine frames.
Brecel exuded a relaxed figure throughout the 17-day championship, openly admitting to preferring beers over the practice table in unique preparation for his matches.
Those exploits and the exciting free-flowing manner in which he went about his business on the table have endeared him to many new fans.
His older supporters will have known for a long time his potential to reach superstardom status.
Brecel turned professional in 2011 at the age of 16, but after glories at the European Amateur Championship at both senior and junior level, he was already being hyped as a future world beater.
He showed early glimpses of his immense talent and became the youngest Crucible qualifier a year later when still just 17.
After securing a maiden ranking title at the 2017 China Championship, expectations were high that a major breakthrough was imminent.
But it took until more recently for him to feature more regularly at the business end of tournaments – reaching the final of the 2021 UK Championship before sealing two more ranking titles soon after.
With the most prestigious prize of all now in his CV, it may be a question of just how many Brecel can muster in what will likely be a glittering career.
For the full 2023 World Snooker Championship draw and results, click here.
Featured photo credit: WST