Ronnie O'Sullivan toasted sweet success last night as he won his fourth World Championship crown.
The "Rocket" blew away his fellow Essex player Ali Carter with a stylish 18-11 win here in Sheffield - and, with victory in the sport's gruelling best-of-35-frame final, pocketed a handsome £250,000 top prize.
"I've come here to try and entertain this tournament because I just wanted to show people what I'm capable of," said O'Sullivan, who admitted he is now going to take a six-month break, having originally threatened to retire after this year's event. "It's very hard to win this, it's a real endurance test. It's the equivalent of the iron man. I don't think it's too much about the snooker, to be honest, I think it's more about controlling your emotions and keeping it together. I was able to do that over 17 days, which is a great feeling."
It was O'Sullivan's fourth world title and his first since 2008 - when he beat the same opponent 18-8 with a dominant performance at snooker's spiritual home. Not that O'Sullivan was any less dominant this time around, but this was a measured performance from the 36-year-old, often plagued by his mental demons on and off the table.
O'Sullivan, who has been seeing the sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters to prolong his colourful career, never looked in any trouble as he remained firmly focused against Carter.
"I wouldn't have been playing if it hadn't been for Steve," he admitted. "It's been tough because I've had to face things I didn't want to face, but once I faced them it felt better. Sometimes you want to run, but I've faced my problems - and this victory tops them all."
He became the oldest Crucible winner for 34 years after Welshman Ray Reardon, then aged 45, claimed victory in 1978. And the records continued to tumble as O'Sullivan clinched a 12th successive victory over Carter, his opponent still having never beaten him in professional play, as well as the 24th ranking title of his career.
It was perhaps fitting that Carter sarcastically held his arms aloft in the penultimate session of the match after he had at least spared himself the ignominy of being beaten with a session spare. A big underdog to beat O'Sullivan, the Tiptree player was left glued to his seat as his opponent, having resumed with a slender 10-7 lead, reeled off four frames on the spin to power 14-7 ahead. At that stage, O'Sullivan had the chance to become the first player since Stephen Hendry beat Jimmy White 18-5 in 1993 to win the Crucible final with a session to spare.
But Carter rallied and pinched a scrappy 22nd frame to stop the rot, before adding breaks of 105 and 53 to reduce his arrears to four frames. However, Carter's comeback was cut short as O'Sullivan finished the session with breaks of 64 and 55 to leave himself needing three frames for victory.
Carter needed to stamp his authority early in the evening session, but O'Sullivan started with a stylish 70 break to pull further ahead. A break of 64 gave Carter the next frame to trail by five, but defeat was just around the corner as O'Sullivan compiled breaks of 46 and 61 for a deserved triumph.
"Maybe if he retires I might win it, who knows?" reflected Carter, who took home £125,000 as a worthy runner-up at this year's tournament.
"I just kept punching, but I'm disappointed with how I played in the final. Ronnie put me under all sorts of pressure, his safety play was better than mine from ball one. He's a genius, so all credit to him. It's great to have been in another final, but it's very disappointing to lose."