Mark Williams is the 2018 world champion after finally seeing off John Higgins 18-16 in one of the best finals we've seen here in many years,
The story of the season has been the resurgence of the "class of 92" so it was, in retrospect, not that big a surprise to see two of them in the final, but perhaps what we might not have expected, was just how much both men would have left in the tank after 17 days of intense competition.
Starting out today Williams would have been delighted the way he rallied to claim that 10-7 overnight lead, having been earlier pegged back to 7-7, and things just got better straight out the gate today as he took the first four frames to the interval to lead 14-7.
Williams was now looking a man completely at one with his game as he serenely floated around the table,there was even whispers of it finishing with a session to spare, but we should know by now, you count out John Higgins at your peril.Back came the Scot after the interval,but although he did take three of the next four, he still had it all to do trailing 15-10 coming into the night session.
What Higgins needed to produce tonight was a perfect session of snooker and it certainly started that way, with a 131 in the opener to close to 15-11.The next two frames followed a similar pattern, as Williams was suddenly struggling to get over the line in frames and two big dishes (67 &82) from Higgins saw him close to with two at 15-13.
Amazingly he also took the next to the go to the interval just the one behind at 15-14 and then followed it up with a 62 break when they resumed to draw level at 15-15.
Just what was going through Williams head at this stage is anyones guess,but having lost 8 of the previous 9 frames, he showed just why he has won so many big tournaments over the years to steady the ship and edge ahead again at 16-15,
A 100 break in the 32nd frame moved him to the brink at 17-15 and the title looked all but his as his break reached 63 in the next, only for him to then miss match ball pink.Higgins being Higgins cleared nervelessly with 65 to make it 17-16.
By now we were wondering what else could happen in this one,but in got Williams again in the next and this time there was no mistake as he sealed the title with a fine break of 69.
So a third world title for Williams, 15 years after his second and one year after failure to qualify for the championship had him contemplating retirement. Whether this revival is entirely down to his devotion to the "SightRight" techniques or the fact that trying something new just gave the encouragement to practice seriously again its impossible to know, but what it has done is provide one of the games greats with a boost of confidence that has seen him back in the winners circle three times this season, including the biggest one of all.
For Higgins after all he has battled, not just in this match, but at various times over the fortnight, this will be a crushing defeat. He will look back at the slow start he made yesterday as perhaps the key moments in this match and although he can be rightly proud of how he fought his way back into it, you just wonder if now after a second world final defeat in a row ,if a fifth title will just prove beyond him.
We must finish though, by again saluting our champion. It was so nice to see his family living every shot from the balcony,especially when you remember that for his kids, this is their first time seeing him on top of the world. It also serves as a timely reminder for a newer generation of snooker fans, who perhaps don't pay due respect to the past, that when we dine out on talk of the games all times greats, Mark J Williams deserves his place at the table.