Stuart Bingham was last night crowned world champion, beating Shaun Murphy 18-15 in the final at the Crucible Theatre.
A gripping Crucible final ended in a late-night finish as Murphy and Bingham contested a classic.
The Betfred World Championship title match was deep into a dramatic second day, with Bingham going from 9-8 behind at the start of the afternoon to 15-12 in front, before Murphy fought back to 15-all.
Murphy gave away 38 points in fouls in the next frame, after being put in two problematic snookers, and when attempting to escape from a third he left Bingham the yellow.
It had reached an hour in duration when the pair took a toilet break, with the frame still unresolved, never mind the match. Eventually, after 63 minutes and 31 seconds, Bingham fired in the pink to nudge 16-15 ahead and two frames from the title.
He held his nerve and claimed the next two to win his first world championship.
Pre-match favourite Murphy was on a quest to become the sixth man to win more than once at the Crucible, following his success a decade ago. His idol Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan are the players with multiple titles.
Bingham becomes the oldest world champion since Ray Reardon, at 45, won in 1978.
The 38-year-old from Basildon was showing the composure of a player who had been playing Crucible finals for many seasons, rather than one who in eight previous visits had reached the quarter-final stage only once, which was the reality.
For a large part of his career, Bingham has been a rank-and-file cueman, with contesting finals or even semi-finals a pipe dream until something clicked in his mid-thirties. For five years in a row, beginning in 2003, he failed to qualify for the World Championship.
Landing a pair of ranking titles, in Australia and then China, has marked him out as a dangerman but even Bingham himself was not expecting to reach the Crucible final. He overcame O’Sullivan and Judd Trump to achieve that lifelong ambition, and Murphy had his hands full.
In the afternoon, Bingham had breaks of 87, 51, 112, 50, 87 and 57, with the century almost much more noteworthy.
He skilfully dropped in 14 reds, each time followed by the black, but ran cruelly out of position as the magical 147 figure approached.
From the black, he looked to nudge the 15th red, by a side rail, towards the middle pocket, but nestled up so close with the white that it became almost impossible to pot. Bingham did his best to cut the ball home, but it was beyond him.
Had he made the shot, added the black and followed up with the colours, it would have been worth £30,000.
He and Murphy, however, were playing for a cheque of 10 times that amount, and maximum or not it took Bingham further clear.
Back though came Murphy, and he was still fighting for the biggest prize in snooker before Bingham finally edged home.
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn believes the “beautiful ordinariness” of Bingham makes the Betfred World Championship finalist a sure-fire Crucible hit.
Hearn said the 38-year-old from Basildon was reaping the rewards for hard graft.
Hearn said: “Stuart and Shaun are two of the best ambassadors I’ve got out there and two of the nicest guys. It’s just a shame one of them has to lose.
“They are people who play the game for the love of the game. Stuart would go anywhere for a game of snooker.
“He’s been a great ambassador for me, in terms of spreading the game and taking the top players around the world. He’s played more tournaments than anybody else and he’s in the World Championship final.
“He’s got a sort of beautiful ordinariness about him that the man in the street can identify with.
“He’s been around for ages, and he’s been a good journeyman pro.
“It’s a great statement to send out to kids taking up the game and to some of the existing pros at the moment.”
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