John Higgins came from behind to take a 3-2 lead over Judd Trump as the Crucible veteran and the young maestro began the Betfred.com World Championship final.
Following a tribute to Ted Lowe, after the commentator’s death this morning, Trump came out to deafening appreciation befitting his status as snooker’s new superstar.
The 21-year-old’s first-round win over last year’s champion Neil Robertson came as a surprise, but even then few other than the hyper-confident Trump himself expected to see him in the final.
Yet victories over Martin Gould, 2006 champion Graeme Dott and reigning Masters champion Ding Junhui followed for the youngster from Bristol, earning him a shot at the title.
It is only seven weeks since Trump won a qualifying-round match against David Gilbert to reach the Crucible, but his life has changed in that time.
He won the China Open for his first ranking title, which marked him down as one to watch in Sheffield, despite his tough draw.
After qualifying as a 17-year-old in 2007, Trump failed to reach the Crucible stage of the tournament in the next three years.
“It’s held me back in terms of being noticed, but hopefully this year I can put on a good show and do well in it,” he said after that win over Gilbert.
“It’s just been a long, long wait, and finally this year I’ve made it again. It’ll be refreshing to be back there.”
Not in his wildest dreams at that stage did Trump imagine he would be taking on Higgins in the final.
Indeed he spoke of how Higgins was setting the standards for modern players, and how he was the man he had to aspire to matching.
“Watching him under pressure, you’ve got to try to copy the emotions he’s going through,” Trump said.
“But he’s been there all his life at the top, so it’s obviously harder for anyone else. When you get that first big win, I think the pressure goes a little bit.”
So it proved for Trump, who has claimed he feels “invincible” after his Sheffield run and beating Peter Ebdon, Shaun Murphy and Mark Selby to land the China title.
That sense would have been accentuated when Trump took two scrappy frames, helped by breaks of 46 and 42, to edge ahead against three-time world champion Higgins this afternoon.
But the Scot hit back, coming from 38-13 behind to take the third frame and 54-0 down to pinch the next, before a run of 64 nudged him ahead for the first time.
Higgins came under fire from an audience member during his semi-final victory over Mark Williams last night, an unwelcome reminder of the controversy which involved the Scot on this weekend 12 months ago, and led to a six-month ban.
But he would have been grateful for the warm reception afforded to him today.