Mark Selby established himself firmily as the current best player in the world, defeating Ronnie O'Sullivan in the year-ending final of the UK Championship after an epic match between the current and a former World Champion.
Snooker is regarded as one of the most unpredicatable sports around, yet if anyone deserves to be at the pinnacle it is certainly Selby. His latest success is the third of the season, adding to the World crown he won back in May. Other than a close contest with John Higgins in the quarter-finals, the Jester from Leicester quietly eased himself into the final two and was in control of the majority of the contest at the Barbican Centre.
Yet O'Sullivan is firmly breathing down his neck in terms of quality despite a lowly ranking of eight. The biggest name in the sport can be somewhat plagued by wayward thinking and that seemed to be the case oncemore this week. By the semi-final stage he had won 30 of 35 frames and at 4-2 looked to be cruising against Marco Fu. Yet a lapse of concentration allowed Fu back in before a final frame decider and the Rocket seemed to face similar issues in Sunday's final.
Selby opens up a superior advantage in the first session
Looking as slick as the hairstyle he sported on his arrival into the arena, Selby produced phases of his potential in the first session of play. Thought it was not before O'Sullivan hit the ground running with breaks of 124 and 63 on his way to a 2-1 lead. With Selby coming back to lead 3-2, the match seemed to a hinge on an epic sixth frame that lastest the best part of an hour before the World number one edged the tactical battle. After five breaks above 50, climaxing at 87, Selby accelerated into a 6-2 lead at the break, more through grit and determination rather than sheer class.
If the first session was not spectacular, the second certainly made up for it. Selby looked to be edging closer to the title as an early 56 break took him five frames ahead. Yet a 56 and 80 in the same frame, followed by a tactical victory, drew O'Sullivan closer at 7-4.
It was at that moment when the pair showed their real quality and the reason why they have both been World Champions and World number ones. The duo shared four breaks of over 130 equally between them in the next five frames as the crowd were treated to a spell of high class snooker. Yet Selby is unlikely to forget the last frame in that sequence as a 134 put him 9-7 ahead and within one of the UK Championship title.
The champion celebrates
He did not have to wait long to enjoy that winning moment, as O'Sullivan seemed to suffer a telling loss of concentration, Selby pounced, enjoying the break of 107 on his way to victory.
The world number one is getting used to enjoying success, yet he looked just as proud of this win when he pointed in acknowledgement to his supportive wife midway through the match-winning break. O'Sullivan offered a gracious handshake and respectful smile and will no doubt also be proud of some of the snooker he played, whilst Selby heads home to enjoy the Christmas break before attention turns to the Masters in January.