England's Mark Selby is a three-time snooker world champion
London (AFP) - Mark Selby won a fourth world snooker title as he held off a stirring fightback from Shaun Murphy to win 18-15 in front of a capacity crowd at the Crucible.
Selby punched the air after sinking the final black under immense pressure to join John Higgins as a four-time champion.
The 37-year-old had endured a torrid time after winning his previous crown in 2017, crashing out in the first round as defending champion and surrendering his status as world number one after going over two-and-a-half years without a British-based ranking title.
Selby strode out for the final session with a 14-11 advantage, but well aware of the danger posed by Murphy, who had roared into the final in the kind of free-flowing form that evoked memories of his charge to the title as a fresh-faced qualifier in 2005.
After Selby moved to within one frame of victory, Murphy produced back-to-back centuries to set up a nervy finale.
He came close to taking another after Selby broke down on a break of 38 in the next, but a difficult red down the cushion proved a step too far, and Selby duly cleared up.
“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,” said Selby.
“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.
“My aim is to try and get back to number one,” he added. “You still have massive goals in your career and I’m going in the right direction.”
Murphy paid tribute to the champion, telling the BBC: “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.”