Stuart Bingham called his breathtaking Crucible triumph an “unreal” experience after beating Shaun Murphy in the final of the Betfred World Championship.
The 38-year-old became the oldest winner of the title since Ray Reardon triumphed as a 45-year-old in 1978, and was joined in the arena by wife Michelle, son Shae and step-daughter Tiegan for an emotional celebration.
Bingham had defied expectations to see off Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump to reach his first final in Sheffield, and pulled off a stunning 18-15 triumph, finishing with a break of 88 and punching the air in delight.
He collected a £300,000 cheque together with the trophy every player desires, and will soar from 10th to second place in the world rankings.
“It’s unreal,” Bingham said. “At 15-15 I thought my chance was gone, my arm felt like someone else’s and the nerves had got to me.
“You dream of it as a kid playing and practising when you start out, but it’s a reality now.
“I was so overwhelmed just to get into the final. Just to witness the final and experience it was great, I didn’t care if I won or lost.”
He had not clocked he was over the winning line in the final frame, until spectators reacted.
“The crowd clapped and then I looked at the score and realised. I thought I needed another red and colour,” he said in his press conference.
“It’s unbelievable to be sitting here as world champion.”
Bingham for the most part showed the composure of a player who had been playing Crucible finals for many years, rather than one who in eight previous visits had reached the quarter-final stage just once, which was the reality.
He trailed 3-0 and 8-4 against Murphy, but crucially got back to 9-8 behind after Sunday’s play, and powered 15-12 ahead on Monday.
Murphy battled back to 15-all, but gave away 38 points in fouls in the next frame, after being put in two problematic snookers, and when attempting to escape from a third he left Bingham the yellow. It had reached an hour in duration when the pair took a toilet break, with the frame still unresolved, never mind the match.
Eventually, after 63 minutes and 31 seconds, Bingham fired in the pink to nudge 16-15 ahead, a key moment.
Bingham’s newest fan, former tennis star Martina Navratilova, wrote on Twitter: “This frame was the equivalent of a 18:16 set or something like that...wow”
Murphy was generous in defeat to his good friend, saying: “He played like a winner all the way through the match.
“Sometimes in sport people are meant to win things. He loves snooker more than life itself.
“He fully deserved to win this tournament and although I’m disappointed to lose I’m happy for him and his family.”