Mark Williams won a battle of emotions as he recovered from 6-3 down to defeat teenager Yan Bingtao 9-8 in a compelling Northern Ireland Open final.
Williams struggles to compose himself in the opening session
The final was in doubt after Williams' wife was rushed to hospital. At midday on Saturday he tweeted, 'not the phone call I wanted. Mrs in ambulance taking her back to hospital tonight...waiting to hear what is going to happen next. Last thing I want is to pull out now but we will have to wait and see.'
However, the two-time World champion announced on Sunday morning that he would not be pulling out and set about winning his first ranking event title in six years, whilst Bingtao went in search of history as he looked to become the youngest ever ranking event winner.
The teenager got off to a flying start, winning three of the first four frames. Yet the World number 16 hit back with an excellent break of 104 as he appeared to find his range. However, Bingtao went on to win two of the last three frames of the session to hold a 5-3 lead at the interval despite only producing two half-century breaks.
Williams took to social media to admit he was struggling to focus in the contest. He explained 'that was a struggle, hence timing went through the window...one more session to go then home it is to be with the Mrs in hospital, perhaps where I should have been from the start.'
Excellent comeback forces a final frame decider
When Bingtao produced a thrilling break of 137 straight after the interval, he looked to be well on his way to creating history. Yet Williams was able to dig deep despite the emotions and bring himself right back into the contest. Breaks of 62, 90 and 58 helped him tie the final at 6-6.
However, the Chinese sensation possesses maturity beyond his years and did not let the comeback put him off his stride. Breaks of 59 and 60 ensured he took two of the next three frames, leaving the number 33 seed just one frame away from a memorable victory.
42-year old Williams has been in such a position enough times in his career and he muscled his way through a tactical battle to take the match into another final frame decider...perhaps not the desired outcome for the Welshman who would have been desperate to get on his way home.
Yet Williams' class shone through to win the decider, despite a late fight from Bingtao who fell just short of completing the three required snookers to win the contest. It was another memorable victory for Williams, 21 years after he won the first of his 20 ranking titles.
For Bingtao, it was a step slightly too far this time around. But watch this space...it will not be long before the Chinese sensations picks up his first ranking title.