Shaun Murphy won his first ranking title for 30 months by beating Mark Williams 10-9 in the final of the Evergrande China Championship in Guangzhou.
In a dramatic finish, Williams came from 9-5 down to 9-9, but Murphy kept his composure and took the deciding frame with a break of 69 to secure the £150,000 top prize.
It’s a relief for England’s 37-year-old Murphy to get his hands on a trophy as he had lost six ranking finals in a row since winning the Gibraltar Open in March 2017.
Murphy endured a poor 2018/19 season, which he described as the worst of his career, but has regained form in emphatic style this term. He was runner-up at the International Championship and Shanghai Masters, and has now gone one further to land the eighth ranking title of his career.
The spin-offs include a place in November’s ManBetX Champion of Champions, almost certain qualification for all three lucrative Coral Series events later in the season, and a leap of six places to eighth in the world rankings.
Williams, age 44, had hoped to become the oldest winner of a ranking event since fellow Welshman Doug Mountjoy landed the 1989 Classic at the age of 46. He was aiming for his 23rd career ranking title and first since the 2018 Yushan World Open when he came from 9-5 down to beat David Gilbert 10-9.
This time, he couldn’t quite complete the fight back, and goes home with £75,000, remaining third in the world.
Murphy led this battle of two former World Champions 5-4 after the first session. Williams nicked the opening frame of the evening session on the final black, before Murphy surged ahead with breaks of 75, 76, 103 and 79 to lead 9-5.
A run of 73 saw Williams spark his recovery and he got the better of two fragmented frames to close to 9-8, before compiling a superb 132 to force the decider.
A rasping long red set Murphy up for his 69 to take control of the frame. Williams replied with 30 and needed a snooker on the last red, but his hopes ended when Murphy fired the red into a baulk corner to clinch the title.
“I was getting very uncomfortable as he came back to 9-9,” admitted Murphy after his 20th ranking final. “It was horrible – I felt sick, I couldn’t breathe or see straight. Winning isn’t easy.
“I played a shot to nothing on the first red in the last frame, it worked out perfectly and the 69 I made was one of the best breaks of my life bearing in mind what had gone on before. To stand up there under the pressure and take my chance – I’m very proud. It has to go down as one of my best performances.
“If you wrote a list of the ten players you don’t want to make a run at you, he is one of them. He’s one of the best players we’ve ever seen. I had him in a lot of trouble all the way through and still I just scraped through in the end. When he was coming back at me, all the bad memories of the last 18 months came flooding back.
“I wasn’t aware I had lost my last six ranking finals until one of the journalists told me. Maybe that gave me the kick I needed today. It’s a massive win for me because it gets me into a lot of other events which I wasn’t in last year. It’s rewarding to know that the things I have been practising are working.”
Williams said: “It was probably the best I have played all week. I made a fight of it and in the last frame I felt totally relaxed, if I’d had a chance I think I would have made a winning break. You have to give him credit for the long red he knocked in and the break he made. I had him under a lot of pressure and he looked like he was twitching a bit.
“I’m not getting younger but I thought I played quite well and I absolutely loved it out there. I just came up a bit short.”