Mark Selby brought the Crucible full house down last night as he claimed a fourth world title to join snooker’s legends.
The 37-year-old from Leicester beat Shaun Murphy 18-15 in the Betfred World Championship final in Sheffield to pocket the £500,000 first prize.
And the showpiece was greeted from the very first frame to when Selby lifted the famous silver trophy by a raucous capacity crowd roaring their approval at every opportunity.
It was a huge personal triumph for Selby, even booed by a few fans as he entered the arena last night following a slow-play ‘gamesmanship’ row in his semi-final win over Stuart Bingham.
He silenced those critics as he moved up to No2 in the world rankings – but in the bigger picture this also felt like a key moment for sport and society.
Not since the controversially staged Cheltenham Gold Cup in March 2020 had there been a full crowd at a UK sporting event of any sort.
But snooker’s blue-riband tournament was selected as one of the government’s more wide-ranging test pilot events.
The scientific data and evidence gathered will be used to help try and ease audiences safely back not only to indoor sport but also theatre, shows, comedy and music concerts.
And therefore Selby may not be the only big winner from the annual 17-day marathon of the mind and body, with other sports and arts stakeholders taking a keen interest.
The Leicester Jester becomes only the fifth player to win four world crowns at the Crucible.
He moves level with John Higgins, and now behind only Ronnie O’Sullivan, Ray Reardon and Steve Davis on six, and record-holder Stephen Hendry on seven.
In a clash of playing styles and approach it was defence that prevailed over attack, with counter-puncher and tactical master Selby keeping the aggressive and attacking Murphy at bay.
Both men share a coach in Chris Henry, whose complicated duties yesterday included switching dressing rooms during the various intervals at breakneck speed.
However it was clearly a disappointing night for Murphy, who also lost his last Crucible final six years ago to Stuart Bingham.
The sell-out crowd queued in the drizzle in Tudor Square yesterday but after a season behind closed doors and the testing and accommodation hurdles overcome, some rain wasn’t stopping them.
And the famous Crucible roar, a prolonged explosion of noise and a standing ovation as Selby and Shaun Murphy walked out onto their stage twice yesterday.
The moments offered a reminder of what has been missing in snooker, sport, and the wider world.
The long format of the World Championship final allows for ebb and flow – and it got that in this contest.
Selby resumed yesterday with a 10-7 lead and though Murphy launched an attack in the afternoon session his opponent just about held him at bay.
And armed with a 14-11 advantage going into the evening finale, Selby had just too much in hand for Murphy to get close.
A magnificent break of 120 left a seemingly nerveless Selby on the brink at 17-13, and though Murphy battled back with two centuries of his own it was all too late.