Mark Selby completes remarkable comeback against John Higgins to claim third Crucible title

When he trailed John Higgins by 10-4 on Sunday evening, Selby had looked beaten but a colossal comeback saw him roll to an 18-15 victory

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The Independent Online

Mark Selby pulled off one of the most astonishing victories in a Crucible final as he landed his third Betfred World Championship title.

When he trailed John Higgins by 10-4 on Sunday evening, Selby had looked beaten, on the scoreboard and in his cheerless demeanour, but a colossal comeback saw him roll to an 18-15 victory.

There was a moment of huge controversy late in the day, when Selby attempted to roll up behind the black and snooker Higgins, only for referee Jan Verhaas to decide the ball had run up short. He called a foul, briefly rowing back on his decision before reinstating the original call.

Selby seemed nonplussed but gathered his composure, and victory made him just the fourth player to successfully defend a world title in Sheffield, after Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan. That level of company reflects Selby's status as a modern-day snooker great.

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Mark Selby and John Higgins shake hands ahead of the final session (Getty)

Selby said: "It's a fantastic feeling. I was confident coming here because of the season I've had. But at 10-4 down I thought there was no way in the world I was coming back from that. I wanted to try to make it respectable and at one stage I was thinking I could lose with a session to spare.

Higgins, a four-time world champion, must have been thinking a fifth title was coming his way as he took advantage of Selby's obvious languor early in the match, a hangover from the world number one's sapping semi-final against Ding Junhui.

No player had come back to win from a greater deficit than six frames in a World Championship final since Dennis Taylor trailed Steve Davis by 8-0 and 9-1 in their 1985 classic.

Crucially Selby launched his revival late in the day on Sunday, thrusting a fist pump after reeling off three successive frames, and planting the first seeds of doubt into the mind of Higgins.

The seeds became giant oaks of disbelief on Monday afternoon as Higgins saw his lead evaporate and Selby begin to stretch clear.

The 33-year-old from Leicester led 13-11 coming into the evening, and withstood a late Higgins flourish to get his hands on the trophy.

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Selby readies to take a shot in the final session (Getty)

O'Sullivan knows exactly how Higgins must have been feeling, having had Selby on the ropes at 10-5 in the 2014 final before falling to a punishing counter-attack.

Selby's title last year came on the same night that Leicester City won the Premier League title, with even Selby distracted by his beloved football team's success.

This time the glory was all his, the £375,000 top prize taking him to a staggering £930,875 for the season - an all-time high.

At the interval on Monday evening, Selby held a 16-12 lead, having won 12 of the previous 14 frames.

Higgins clipped the lead to three frames with an 88 break, giving wife Denise in the balcony seats some late hope. Every shot felt like a major undertaking but it was a positive response.

And it continued from Higgins, who at 41 was the oldest finalist since 49-year-old Ray Reardon lost to Alex Higgins in 1982.

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Higgins described Selby as 'granite' after the final (Getty)

He made 111 to get back to 16-14, before Selby opened a handy advantage in the next frame. After making a plant to nudge 47-0 ahead, the drama unfolded when the white cosied up by the black. Selby might have been thrown off his game after the frame slipped away but the opposite happened.

Prime Selby returned, ploughing in 131, then sealing victory with 75, clenching his fists again and looking up to wife Vikki in delight. Higgins applauded, a classic complete.

Selby, asked about the black-ball controversy, said: "I could have swore the black moved a little bit. Jan said it didn't and I looked at John Parrott and Steve Davis and their first impressions were 'Yes', then they looked again and weren't sure.

"The referee's decision is final and you have to go with what they go with, and Jan's probably the best referee we have in the game and I respect his decision."

Asked about Selby's prospects of further world titles, Higgins said: "I think Mark will add to that, whether it's one, two, three or four. He's the toughest player I've ever played.

"He's just granite, he really is. I take my hat off to him."

PA

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