Mark Selby has won the 2021 World Snooker Championship having defeated Shaun Murphy 18-15 in the final at the Crucible.
Selby – a 9/1 winner for Richard Mann’s Antepost Angle column – broke the back of the match when reeling off four frames in a row on Sunday evening to lead 10-7 overnight, before maintaining his three-frame advantage on Monday afternoon when refusing to buckle in the face of a bold and brave onslaught from Murphy.
The 37-year-old is now a four-time world champion, drawing level with John Higgins on the list of multiple Crucible winners, having added to his title victories in 2014, 2016 and 2017. On the evidence of his performance over the last 17 days, he might yet come close to chasing down Stephen Hendry’s record of seven World Championship wins.
Despite puffing his chest out and throwing his full arsenal of artillery at Selby on Monday afternoon, and then again in the evening, Murphy was unable to land a significant blow on an opponent who continues to prove himself a defensive master and nerveless break-builder on the biggest stage.
Murphy had twice threatened to close within a single frame in that third session, but Selby continued to find a way to keep the 2005 champion at arms length and by the time he claimed the final frame of the session to ensure his 10-7 overnight advantage had moved to 14-11, he already had one hand on the famous trophy.
When the final session began to the backdrop of another electric Crucible atmosphere, Murphy kept true to form by making the early running with a sting of brilliant pots, only to miss a simple pink to middle and let Selby in for a typically clinical run of 66 that helped him move four frames clear.
This season's European Masters winner then built up a 44-point lead in the following frame as he tried to edge closer to the winning line, an early finish already looking on the cards until he broke down and Murphy stepped in to reduce his arrears 15-12.
In spite of that setback, Selby thundered in another long red on the way to clinching the next frame in one visit with a break of 68, though Murphy hit back once again, needing a couple of chances to clinch frame 29 but keeping himself just about alive in the process.
A stunning 120 from Selby appeared to have finally killed off Murphy's hopes, but roared on by the Crucible faithful, he found his best snooker when he needed it most and fired in back-to-back centuries to send the arena into a frenzy and leave Selby suddenly looking flustered in his chair.
Still nursing a 17-15 lead, Selby at least had breathing space and after Murphy missed from distance, he managed to carve out a 38-point lead in frame 33 until rattling the jaws of the green pocket. With one final lifeline, Murphy went down on his shield as most of South Yorkshire willed in an attempted red along the left-hand side cushion that threatened to drop but instead, left Selby with a clear run to the winning line.
But there was still time for more drama. Having found himself too high on the final blue, Selby pulled off a thin cut to middle, only to leave himself on the wrong side of the pink. Another pressure shot, this time judged to perfection, left him with frame, match and championship ball. After a false start and another puff of the cheeks, Selby summoned one last effort to finish the job before raising his arms aloft and falling into a Murphy's arms as the pair shared a warm embrace.
Two Crucible veterans responsible for yet another thrilling chapter in the Crucible story, this one more significant given what today's return of crowds represents for sport, and even the country as a whole. A return to normal perhaps.
Mark Selby victorious in Sheffield. It really doesn't get any more normal than that.
A gracious Murphy told the BBC afterwards: “He’s just super-granite. Unfortunately for me I’ve known him since we were nine years of age and he’s always been the same.
“I started the match well and he just went into super-hard mode and broke me last night – it was a tough lead to give him overnight in a match of this calibre and it probably made the difference.”
Selby added: “Absolutely incredible – every time you get to a world final you always try your hardest because it’s such a tough tournament to get there and you never know if it’s going to be your last or not.
“Shaun’s played fantastic all the way through the match and he’s a great player and ambassador for the game and it’s great to see (him) back.
“A few years ago I had some really, really dark days and times were tough, obviously all the family will understand what I’m going through, so this has been a special one.”
Selby’s win moved him back up to number two in the world rankings and he added: “My aim is to try and get back to number one, you still have massive goals in your career and I’m going in the right direction.”
Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy traded blows in the third session of their World Snooker Championship final at the Crucible, but the three-time winner remains in pole position having moved into a 14-11 lead.
For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic took hold, Britain welcomed a capacity crowd back into a sporting arena and the Sheffield faithful treated the two players to a spine-tingling welcome: a standing ovation and cheers that could be heard throughout South Yorkshire setting the scene for an electric afternoon of snooker.
As was the case on Sunday, it was Murphy who was fastest out of the traps and his confident opening run of 77 handed Selby an early reminder that his job was far from complete.
Following that early jolt, Selby was grateful to win the second frame of the day on the final black having looked to have done the hard work with a break of 62, before Murphy laid a devilish snooker only to leave the black hanging in the jaws of the middle pocket, drawing a loud gasp from the Crucible.
Murphy continued to take the game to Selby, keen not to get drawn into the lengthy safety exchanges that helped turn the match in his opponent's favour on Sunday evening, but a brilliant century in frame 21 ensured Selby restored his three-frame cushion.
Breaks of 54 and 50 saw Selby dominate the 22nd frame, though Murphy still wouldn't take a backward step and responded with a brilliant century of his own to keep himself in the contest before he claimed the following frame, another terrific long red paving the way for the 2005 champion to reduce his arrears to 13-11.
Murphy offered another fist pump as he strode out of the arena with purpose, but when he returned, Selby won a crucial final frame of the session with steely contributions of 62 and 79 that re-established his three-frame advantage and left his opponent with nothing to show for his brave afternoon's work.
Mark Selby dominated the second session of his World Snooker Championship final with Shaun Murphy and now leads 10-7 after winning the last four frames on Sunday evening.
Selby trailed 5-3 from the afternoon having spurned a golden opportunity late in the peace to level up at 4-4, but he was at his merciless best just a few hours later, initially keeping tabs on his opponent as Murphy again made the early running before steadily turning the tide as the night wore on.
When the second session eventually finished just after 2320, Selby was dictating terms and controlling the contest, Murphy's previously razor-sharp potting blunted by some outstanding match-play from his opponent and the pain of losing a couple of frames that, had they gone the other way, would have changed the whole complexion of the match.
Murphy again looked likely to draw first blood when play resumed, quickly putting together a run of 49 before breaking down and allowing Selby to step in with a typically steely clearance of 85.
Unperturbed, Murphy responded with a break of 98 to restore his two-frame advantage, only to slip up in frame 11 having appeared set to extend his lead further, Selby hitting back with two-more frame winning contributions to draw level at 6-6.
Frame 13 saw both players spurn good chances but in winning it courtesy of a neat hand of 64, Murphy had managed to keep Selby at arms length and edge back into a 7-6 lead.
Despite that latest setback, Selby continued to snap away and after shutting Murphy out in the fourteenth frame, the three-time champion led for the first time when clearing the table for a superb clearance of 90, his opponent left frustrated once more having again been afforded first sitting at the table.
With the final having now turned on its axis, and Murphy's long pot success percentage at last dipping below 100, Selby ruthlessly turned the screw, grinding out another frame to move 9-7 in front before doing a similar number in frame 17, ensuring he will resume on Monday afternoon with a healthy three-frame cushion.
Shaun Murphy leads Mark Selby 5-3 after a nervy start to their World Championship final at the Crucible Theatre.
Selby displayed nerves of steel to see off Stuart Bingham in their semi-final less than 24 hours earlier, but he never really settled in the first session of Sunday's final, slipping 2-0 behind before staging a brief rally, only to spurn a golden opportunity to end the afternoon all square.
As it is, Murphy is the one in the early ascendancy having done the bulk of the scoring in a performance not quite scaling the heights he reached in his defeat of Kyren Wilson on Saturday, but one which confirms Selby will need to draw on all of his famous battling qualities if he is to claim a fourth world title.
Both players had chances to win the first frame, but Murphy found a thin pot on the final blue to draw first blood before the same colour was left to haunt Selby in frame two when he inexplicably missed to middle and allowed the 2005 champion to double his lead.
2-0 looked certain to become 3-0 as Murphy put together a run of 65, only to miss frame ball and open the door for Selby to claim a huge steal and get off the mark. When Selby added a break of 89 in next frame to draw level, he would have sensed an opportunity to take control.
However, Murphy continued to look dangerous in the balls and he edged back in front thanks to a well-taken hand of 75, only for Selby to dominate the sixth frame and get back on level terms again.
A break of 64 did the damage for Murphy in frame seven, but when he broke down on 52 in the final of frame of the afternoon, Selby was handed a simple opportunity to make another big steal and get back to parity. To the surprise of all inside the Crucible, including Murphy, Selby fluffed his lines on the final red, his opponent breathing a huge sigh of relief as he moved two clear ahead of tonight's second session.