Mark Selby pulled off one of the most astonishing victories in a Crucible final as he landed his third Betfred World Championship title last night.
When he trailed John Higgins by 10-4 on Sunday evening, Selby had looked beaten, on the scoreboard and in his cheerless demeanour, but a colossal comeback saw him roll to an 18-15 victory.
“It’s unbelievable, really... I can’t believe it,” Selby said.
“I’m pinching myself. Congratulations to John for a great final. At 10-4 down, to get it back to 10-7 I was over the moon because I hit the wall, and didn’t feel like I had anything left.
“He outplayed me the day before but I came back fresh, and played a lot better.
“I missed everything at 10-4 and I just said to myself ‘come on - if I’m going to go down, I’m going to go down fighting’.
“John missed a few balls you wouldn’t expect him to and gave me a few chances, but he’s a great guy on and off the table and one of the all-time greats.”
There was a moment of huge controversy late in the day, when Selby attempted to roll up behind the black and snooker Higgins, only for referee Jan Verhaas to decide the ball had run up short. He called a foul, briefly rowed back on his decision, before reinstating the original call.
Selby seemed nonplussed but gathered his composure, and victory made him just the fourth player to successfully defend a world title in Sheffield, after Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan. That level of company reflects Selby’s status as a modern-day snooker great.
“I thought I touched it but I trust Jan,” Selby admitted.
“Fair play to John, he even offered a replay when he didn’t have to. But I just had to put it out of my mind and get on with it. To get over the two-win mark and sit on three is unbelievable, and to be one of only four players to retain the title is the stuff dreams are made of, really.”
Higgins played in his first Crucible final back in 1998.
“Mark is absolutely granite,” the Scot said.
“I had my chances and could have gone 9-3 ahead at one point, but I missed and Mark does what he always does; clear up under pressure. He’s a fantastic champion. It’s been an unbelievable tournament, in its 40th year, and I’ve given it everything. I just came up short to a great champion.
“He was too good on the day.”