Neil Robertson produced an incredible fightback to overturn an 8-4 deficit and defeat Cao Yupeng 9-8 in the final of the Dafabet Scottish Open in Glasgow.
It’s a first ranking title since the 2016 Riga Masters for the Thunder from Down Under and it sees him move up to 15th in the world after dropping down to 20th in the rankings at last week’s UK Championship, meaning he now misses out on next month’s Dafabet Masters.
Defeat for Cao in his maiden ranking final came in the most excruciating manner. However, the world number 67 can take solace from his best ever career run and the fact that he made his first professional 147 in his opening round tie with Andrew Higginson.
The afternoon session belonged to Cao, who played the more composed snooker as he opened up a 5-3 advantage.
It would prove to be an evening of unfathomable drama at the Emirates Arena. However, Cao began the session in equally calm measure, making breaks of 72, 81 and 66 to take an 8-4 lead at the mid-session and he required just one for the title.
When they returned Robertson applied the pressure with a gutsy contribution of 85 to move three behind at 8-5.
With the title within his grasp, the gravity of the situation began to take its toll on Cao, who regained his tourcard at Q School in 2016. He started to miss opportunities which he was hoovering up earlier in the match.
Both players had chances as the tension grew, but it was Robertson who claimed the following two frames to draw within one at 8-7.
In an astonishing finish to the 16th frame, Cao looked set to clinch the title by clearing the colours, before missing a straightforward pink. He had another chance on the final black, but jawed it and the ball remained over the pocket to allow Robertson to set up a decider.
The 35-year-old Triple Crown winner showed his mettle by firing in a break of 59 under extreme pressure. He eventually crossed the line to take home the title.
Robertson has now won four of his 13 ranking titles in Scotland, having previously secured victories at the 2006 and 2009 Grand Prix and the 2010 World Open. It was a remarkable showing of break building this week, as he compiled 11 centuries to equal the tally Marco Fu accumulated winning the title last year.
The 2010 World Champion said: “I started to notice some nerves and jitters in his cue action and I was super aggressive the next few frames. It was all out attack to put him under pressure.
“He just completely outplayed me for a lot of the match. Up to 8-4 it was one of the best performances ever against me He played as the underdog and was free flowing with no pressure. I was expecting some of the mistakes he made at the end to come at the start of the match.
“It was an unbelievable way to cap off the year. My form was definitely coming and I showed that in the UK last week. I just needed to maintain it. I can’t remember being involved in too many finals like that, where I had to come from so far behind. I was millimetres from losing with Cao rattling the black.
“I would much rather win this and pick up a huge victory, than scrape into the Masters and not have a shot at winning it. I can rest up now. I have practised so much over the last couple of months. I must have been playing 200 long pots a day. My main threat is with my long potting. When my hand is on the table I will go for it.”
Afterwards a despondent Cao admitted that the nerves got to him in the latter stages of the match.
Cao said: “I am just a little bit sad, because I put too much pressure on myself when I got close to winning. My heart needs to be a bit stronger and that is what I need to learn from Neil and the top 16 players. They don’t lose control in the big moments of the game.
“I don’t want to think about it too much. Today was not a good day. I just needed one more frame. I was 8-4 up. Hopefully it won’t be too bad for my confidence.”