Mark Selby beat John Higgins 10-9 in a marathon battle to win the Evergrande China Championship for the first time.
A tremendous contest between two of snooker’s toughest competitors lasted seven hours and 24 minutes, finishing at 12.30am local time in Guangzhou. Selby led 3-1 in the early stages but otherwise there was never more than one frame between them.
Leicester’s 35-year-old Selby eventually got the better of a tense deciding frame to win the £150,000 top prize. It’s his first ranking title of the season and 15th of his career. Seven of those have come in China, including five within the last two years.
Selby also strengthens his grip on the world number one position he has held since February 2015. He started the current season well behind Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan on the provisional end of season rankings but has now closed that gap.
Higgins missed the chance to win a 31st ranking title, which would have brought him within two of O’Sullivan and five of Stephen Hendry on the all-time list. Having not made a century throughout the tournament, the 43-year-old Scot would admit he was fortunate to get as far as he did. He still banks £75,000 and remains fourth in the rankings.
Breaks of 82 and 70 helped give Selby his early 3-1 lead, then Higgins took three frames in a row. Selby’s 118 made it 4-4 before Higgins took the last of the opening session with a run of 85.
Selby won three of the first four frames of the evening session with top breaks of 70 and 60 to go 7-6 up. Back came Higgins, taking the next two with a top run of 60. He had chances in frame 16 but his opponent took it on the colours for 8-8.
Frame 17 lasted 44 minutes and came down to the final black, Higgins potting it to regain the lead. And he led 48-0 in the next, only for Selby to claw back and snatch it by clearing from the last red. And Higgins failed to pot a ball in the decider as Selby took it with runs of 33 and 35.
“I felt happy from the start because I knew my game was in good shape,” said Selby, who now heads to Belgium to play in the D88.com European Masters which starts on Monday.
“I just wanted to enjoy the match because John is one of the all-time greats so to play him in a major final is something you dream of. To come out on the winning side is even better. In patches we both played some good snooker, and in other patches it was scrappy.”
Higgins, who also lost to Selby in last year’s World Championship final, said: “I had a good chance when I was 9-8 up. Then Mark potted a great red to a middle pocket and got back into the match. It was a long match and we both had chances. The best player won in the end and every credit to Mark.”