Ding Junhui confirmed his return to the top tier of snooker with a stunning 10-6 defeat of Stephen Maguire in the final of the UK Championship at the York Barbican.
In a match that Ding dominated throughout, he would ultimately run out a commanding winner but the evening session saw both players produce snooker of the highest order after Maguire won three of the last four frames of the afternoon to reduce his arrears to 5-3 and keep the match alive.
Nevertheless, any hopes of the Scot mounting a serious comeback were extinguished by Ding’s ruthless start to the evening session, breaks of 83 and 67 helping him win three of the first four frames of the night to essentially break the back of the match.
A run of 103 confirmed Maguire remained in good touch and kept his faint hopes alive and he returned from the mid-session interval with the bit between his teeth, knocking in another break of 103 before following up with a magnificent clearance of 124 in frame 15 to reduce his arrears to 8-6.
Ding was not shaken, though, and pounced when getting scent of the winning line, the incredibly high standard continuing as he produced a flawless visit of 131 in frame 15 before closing out the match with another century break - the fourth in a row and fifth in six frames - to bring the crowd to its feet.
Ding was immediately met by Maguire who offered him a warm embrace at the end of a match that finished in superb fashion, both players finding their very best form when it was needed most.
For Ding, winner of this event in 2005 and 2009, it was an emotional and welcome return to winning ways after a challenging last couple of years where trophies have become harder to come by and his commitment to the game has been questioned.
Ding told the BBC afterwards: "It's very special - two years I've done nothing but I played very well this week.
"I'm happy now. I was worried because I wasn't doing well but this week I've been so confident and played so well.
"To beat Ronnie on the way to final made me start to believe that I could lift the trophy again."
Maguire fights back after horror start
The afternoon session was one that swung one way and then the other, but Ding would have been the happier of the two players when winning frame eight having seen his 4-0 lead cut back to 4-3 by a resilient Maguire.
Having produced a dazzling performance to whitewash close friend Mark Allen in their semi-final on Saturday night, Maguire was clearly frustrated with the ragged display he turned in barely 12 hours later as he made a number of costly early errors.
In contrast, Ding settled much better and having dominated frame one, he added a break of 56 to win frame two and quickly double his lead.
Maguire's woes continued when two more unforced errors early in frame three - a missed red and a black off the spot - gave Ding another chance to extend his lead further and a typically pinpoint run of 105 was followed by an even more impressive break of 128 in frame four.
In the face of back-to-back centuries from his opponent and a 4-0 deficit, Maguire was under huge pressure heading to the mid-session interval but he resumed in defiant mood, kicking off his comeback with a silky long red that gave him the foothold in the match he had been searching for.
When he eventually closed out frame five, he was up and running and a well-taken contribution of 67 in the following frame saw the pendulum swing for the first time in the match, Ding beginning to look flustered while Maguire appeared to be growing in confidence.
Frame seven went much the same way, Maguire building a 30-point lead before more lapse safety from Ding allowed the Scot to reduce his arrears to 4-3 with one frame of the afternoon to play.
When Maguire found an early opening in frame eight, he would have been hopeful of getting out of the session all square but he inexplicably left the blue short when trying to drop into the middle pocket and Ding displayed great character to make a break of 66 to finally stop the rot.
It wasn't vintage Ding by any means as he fought for control of the cue ball throughout but he somehow scrambled his way over the winning line in that final frame of the afternoon, ensuring his early hard work was not undone and handing him advantage he would not relinquish when play resumed a couple of hours later.