Graeme Dott won this year's world snooker championship final at the Crucible Theatre yesterday, surviving a fightback from former champion Peter Ebdon for an 18-14 victory to take the first professional title of his career.
Dott, 28, the losing finalist against Ronnie O'Sullivan two years ago, had built up a 15-7 lead in the best of 35-frame contest.
But Englishman Ebdon, world champion in 2002 and famed for his resilience, won the first six frames of Monday's evening session to spark thoughts of an unlikely comeback.
However, his Scottish opponent belatedly found his form in a match that beat Dennis Taylor's 18-17 win over Steve Davis back in 1985 as the latest finish to a Crucible final by not concluding until 12:52 am local time yesterday.
Dott, who had struggled with his positional play as Ebdon recovered, produced arguably the best break of his career to go to 17-14 up and just one frame away from victory after a clearance of 68, his highest of the match.
A tense final was eventually settled when Ebdon left the final red over the corner pocket and Dott, kissing the trophy on the way, made no mistake to gain the points he needed and the credit he felt he had been unjustly denied for so long after losing his four previous professional finals.
"I just thought it was slipping away before I did the clearance to go 17-14 [ahead] because Peter was playing fantastic," Dott said after lifting the trophy and collecting a cheque for ?200,000 (US$363,900).
"At one point I just felt I was absolutely gone," Dott, who just did enough to beat Australia's Neil Robertson 13-12 in the last eight, added.
Ebdon, famed for his mental resilience, desperately needed a good start to his evening's work on Monday after going eight frames behind and a break of 117, the only century contribution of a 32-frame final, provided an ideal start.
It was the cue for a remarkable sequence by the Dubai-based Ebdon who up until that point hadn't won three frames in a row, let alone six.
Come the mid-session interval Dott, who beat O'Sullivan in the semi-finals, had seen his lead reduced to 15-11.
And when a dour 27th frame lasting 74 minutes and eight seconds -- a record since the world championship was first staged at the Crucible in 1977 -- was eventually won by Ebdon, it seemed as if the Englishman had broken his opponent's spirit.
That appeared all the more true when Ebdon, who scraped past Hong Kong's Marco Fu in a final-frame semi-final, then made it six on the trot with a break of 84. Dott stopped the rot with a break of 66 although it needed Ebdon's in-off to give him his first frame in five-and-half-hours, including intervals, to go two frames away from the title at 16-13.
Ebdon's resolve, though, was unimpaired and he then won what turned out to be his last frame. Dott, 60 points behind in the next, was given an unexpected chance after Ebdon lost position with just 75 left on the table.
After a magnificent 68, including a difficult red on the rail, Dott's shout of "come on!" as the final black went in was entirely understandable as he went one frame away from victory.