Mark Selby became just the fourth person in snooker history to win successive World titles as he completed one of the greatest comebacks in 40 years of World Championship action at the Crucible.
Selby extends advantage
Trailing 13-11 after leading 10-7 overnight, the pressure was all on John Higgins as the players returned for the fourth and final session. The four-time World Champion knew that he could afford very few errors and that thought process was underpinned immediately in the first frame.
One loose positional shot mid-break offered a chance to Selby and the defending champion duly swallowed it up. Yet Higgins was by no means finished. He showed his grit as he won a tense 26th frame and hauled himself onto the scoresheet with just a second win in the last twelve frames.
The Scotsman needed to build on that scrappy success but Selby was quick to shoot him down. A fluent 71 put the Englishman just three frames away from a third title. If anything Selby just appeared to be even more fired up as he opened a clear advantage with a 54 break in the next frame.
Higgins could not take a faint opportunity when it arose and Selby secured another success with a compelling 70. It took Selby into the mid-session interval with 12 of the last 14 frames, scoring 1059 points compared to Higgins' 308.
Selby thwarts Higgins revival to retain crown
For a period after the break, it looked as though Selby would stroll to another victory. Yet his compilation broke down and Higgins responded admirably with a break of 88 to keep himself in the contest. That frame appeared to play on the mind of Selby as an uncharacteristic miss allowed Higgins to formulate a compilation of 111 to secure successive frames for the first time since the second session.
The contest certainly did not require any more drama but a controversial decision left the Crucible crowd gripped even further. Selby attempted to roll up behind the black but referee Jan Verhaas called a foul, to which Selby took exception. Verhaas appeared to change his mind only to then return to his original call. That moment looked to play on Selby's mind and a flurry of mistakes opened the frame for another Higgins response.
Frame 32 looked to be critical and a re-rack did not ease the tension. Higgins did manage to crack a joke when almost falling off the table after stretching for a long pot but then misplaced his shot. Selby held his nerve to pounce on the chance and made an excellent 131 to go within one frame of victory. The World number one did not have to wait long for that moment as a break of 75 completed an extraordinary comeback to win his third title in four years after one of the best finals the Crucible has ever seen.g