Mark Selby has been backed to win multiple Crucible titles after stunning Ronnie O’Sullivan to land his maiden triumph at the Dafabet World Championship.
On a night when emotions were running high, Selby dedicated the remarkable victory to his late father.
The 30-year-old Leicester cueman’s tenacity and sheer appetite for the task was rewarded as he triumphed 18-14 and finished with a flourish.
The great ’Grinder’ of the sport, Canada’s Cliff Thorburn, was on hand to see Selby wear down the man who was chasing a third successive world title and sixth of his career.
O’Sullivan remarked on Selby’s likeness to the 1980 world champion, and had no complaints about his loss in a match he led 8-3 and 10-5.
“If you sign up to be a top snooker player you accept the losses with the wins. You can’t have it all your own way all the time,” O’Sullivan said.
“I’ll have to come back and try to go one better next time.”
Reflecting on where it went wrong, O’Sullivan added: “There were lots of long safety bouts and I got dragged into it.
“I was finding it hard to get momentum together.
“At times I felt numb out there because I was in my chair for long periods of time.
“With Mark, you can never count him out. He’s certainly got the game to win many more world titles if he wants to.”
Selby had looked primed to become another O’Sullivan victim in Sheffield but crucially took the last two frames of Sunday evening’s session, and hit the front for the first time when sweeping all four before the interval on Monday afternoon.
Victory was clinched with an exceptional clearance of the colours, Selby holding his nerve as though it was he who had won this title five times in the past.
He punched the air in delight, the man who goes to world number one after his win laying his hands on the trophy for the first time.
“My father died of cancer when I was 16, two months before turning professional, and his last words to me were, ’I want you to be world champion’. That’s for him,” Selby said.
“There’s no better feeling. Whether you win it once or more than once, no-one can take it away from me.
“It’s amazing really. I’m over the moon.”
When it came down to a slightly tricky black for the title, Selby recalled: “I was just telling myself, ’Trust yourself, do all the basics right’ and I managed to pot it.”
O’Sullivan had won 14 matches in a row at the Crucible, taking the 2012 and 2013 titles and charging to another final this year.
But where he had won each of his previous five finals, in Selby he struck upon an opponent who importantly believed he could – and would – succeed where John Higgins, Graeme Dott, Ali Carter – twice – and Barry Hawkins fell short.