Mark Selby came from 9-7 down to beat Mark Williams 10-9 in an epic Bank of Communication Shanghai Masters final.
Williams, usually so calm under pressure, squandered chances to win in the closing stages and uncharacteristically lost his cool in the deciding frame.
Leicester’s Selby took advantage to win only his second ranking title, improving a record of just one win – the 2008 Welsh Open – from five previous ranking finals. The 28-year-old is in the best form of his life having won 12 consecutive matches, including victory in the Paul Hunter Classic two weeks ago, and is now ranked No 1 in the world for the first time.
Welshman Williams, who was bidding to win his 19th ranking title and seventh in Asia, looked set for victory when he came from 7-5 down to lead 9-7. But he was upset by a decision by referee Eirian Williams in frame 17, when Williams felt that Selby had hit the pink when escaping from a snooker, but after studying a video replay, it was decided that he had hit a red first.
Selby came back to win that frame then took the next after two-times World Champion Williams missed a dead easy green when just a few pots from victory.
In the deciding frame of a marathon contest, which finished close to 1am, Selby led 32-0 then laid a snooker behind the brown, and a frustrated Williams swiped wildly at the reds, going in-off and gifting Selby the chance to add enough points to cross the winning line and take the £65,000 top prize.
“It’s a big relief to win my second ranking title because I’d lost a few finals,” said Selby, who has also won the Masters twice and took the Wuxi Classic title close to Shanghai earlier this season. “Every time I got to a final I came up against someone playing well. Tonight I wasn’t at my best but the luck went my way.
“I played well in the first session and should have been 6-3 up. Tonight I struggled and made so many mistakes, but towards the end I got myself together again and Mark missed a few.
“It’s a great feeling to be World No 1, all I wanted to do was to get to the top of the sport. But I have to keep up the hard work because others will want to get ahead of me.”
As for the incident in frame 17, Selby said: “It was very difficult for the referee to see which ball I hit first. Mark felt I hit the pink and I wasn’t sure. The referee studied it and felt it had hit the red first, and we accepted that.”
Williams has now lost in the first two ranking finals of the season having suffered a 9-8 reverse from 8-5 ahead against Stuart Bingham at the Australian Goldfields Open. He said: “Overall Mark played a bit better than me so he deserved it.”
Leading 5-4 after the first session, Selby doubled his advantage in the first frame tonight after Williams had made a safety error on the last red.
Selby should have gone 7-4 up, but twice missed the final green when well placed in frame 11, and Williams cleared up to make it 6-5.
The 37-minute 12th frame came down to a long safety battle on the last few balls, which was settled when Williams, trailing by 16 points, tried a shot-to-nothing on the blue but the cue ball caught the knuckle of a middle pocket and gifted an easy pot to Selby.
Williams dominated to the next to make it 7-6 at the mid-session interval. The 14th was another protracted frame, lasting 30 minutes, and it went to Williams as he mopped up the last five reds to leave his opponent needing snookers.
In frame 15, Selby’s missed long range pot on the third-last red proved decisive as Williams built a 26-point lead then laid a snooker on the last red, and from the chance that followed secured an 8-7 lead.
Suddenly, Williams had a spring in his step, and when Selby missed a long red early in frame 16, the man from Cwm piled in a break of 88 to go two up with three to play.
Williams looked to be cruising towards the winning line in the next until he missed a red to a centre pocket on 46. He later led 48-5 and trapped his opponent in a nasty snooker, leaving Selby to hit-and-hope and scatter the reds everywhere. A delay followed as referee Eirian Williams and both players consulted a slow-motion replay to work out whether the cue ball had struck pink or red first, eventually deciding on the latter. Williams then went for a difficult red and missed it, allowing Selby make 43. The Jester laid a snooker on the yellow which gave him the chance to clear and reduce his arrears to 9-8.
Frame 18, which took 47 minutes, involved more drama as Williams was trapped in a snooker on the last red, behind the black, and missed it four times before, incredibly, hitting the red and leaving his opponent in the same spot behind the black. Selby escaped at his first attempt but left Williams a clear match-winning chance, only for the left-hander to fail on the green. Selby dished calmly for 9-9.
And Selby dominated the decider, winning it 69-0 with runs of 32 and 25 to settle an absorbing contest.