Stuart Bingham is the World Snooker champion,beating Shaun Murphy 18-15 in a dramatic and memorable final at The Crucible Theatre.
Before this tournament started few would have considered Bingham a serious contender for the title here,but after a first round struggle against Robbie Williams,he blew former champion Graeme Dott away in the second round,before a superb victory over Ronnie in the quarter final,and a dramatic deciding frame win over Trump in the semi.
Even with these victories behind him he still started this final as the underdog against a Shaun Murphy who had been in splendid form,breezing through the top half of the draw,to reach his third world final.
Bingham was to prove once again though that writing him off is a dangerous pass time as he showed just what a competitor he has become to claim the sports most coveted prize.
Of the match itself,unlike the first two session yesterday it was Bingham who got off to the better start today,taking the first four frames to turn his 9-8 overnight deficit into a 12-9 lead and although Murphy managed to stop the rot a bit the next four were only shared to leave Stuart 14-11 ahead going into the final session.
Murphy would have been aware he needed a good start tonight and got it,taking the first of the night to close to 14-12 Bingham though reopened his three frame lead in the next to lead 15-12.
Bingham was now just three frames from the title and maybe those thoughts were starting to enter his head as he started to miss a few & Murphy,being the great player he is started to fight back,taking the two before the interval to close to 15-14 and then the next level it up at 15-15.
This had been a match of the highest quality,with most of the frames coming down to whoever got the first chance,but it was a good old fashioned long nervy 31st frame that perhaps decided the destination of the title.
After a long battle on the reds the pendulum seemed to have swung toward Murphy when Bingham potted a great long red only to see the white cannon off another red and go in off. Murphy now had a chance to clear to win,but he failed to get ideal position on the yellow and a safety battle ensued.The key moment here was to come when Bingham paid an excellent snooker on the yellow and from here really controlled the exchanges,eventually winning the 64 minute frame to lead again 16-15.
This was indeed to prove the pivotal moment as Bingham held himself together to win the two he needed to lift the title 18-15 and claim the £300,000 top prize
Murphy of course was every bit the gentleman we would expect in his hearty congratulations of Stuart and although he will be disappointed he didn't add a second world title ten years on from his first,he can look back on a tournament & indeed season where he established himself once again as one of the games real top players.Once he gets over this he can certainly look back on his performance with a lot of pride as well as look forward to next season where if he keeps this form up he will be a title contender wherever he plays.
But what of our champion Stuart Bingham.As I said few would have ever seen him as a potential world title winner (& I include myself in that as readers of this blog will know,I tipped him for defeat in every round since the second) ,but what a way to prove your doubters wrong. There has been plenty of talk about the new calendar & burnout over the last twelve months,but maybe now that argument can stop,when a player playing his 120th match of the season goes on to lift the world crown.
In these last five seasons,Bingham has never complained about the schedule,but instead adopted a "have cue will travel" attitude and has as such reaped the rewards,from his first ranking title in Australia,to his second in Shanghai,his numerous Asian tour successes as well as the Premier League and now this.
Some will no doubt question what it says about where our sport is at when a 38 year old with only two rankings titles in 20 years as a pro can win the world title,but they are questions for another day.Tonight lets just agree that it shows everyone in the game that if you put in the hard yards and never stop believing,then in the end you may just get the rewards you deserve.