Judd Trump edged Ronnie O'Sullivan 9-7 in one of the greatest snooker finals in living memory to take the Northern Ireland Open title.
In defending the title he won last year, Trump becomes the first player since Stephen Hendry in 1991 to collect three ranking titles after becoming a first-time world champion, while for O’Sullivan the wait for that elusive record-breaking 37th ranking title continues.
In a match befitting of the Alex Higgins Trophy, Trump and O'Sullivan played out an all-time classic at the Waterfront Hall, with no fewer than 16 plus-50 knocks during their 16-frame showdown. Trump, 30, contributed four tons, three of which came in the evening session, with O'Sullivan hitting two century-plus breaks, and, such was the standard, both players flirted with maximums.
A heavy kick brought the Bristolian's attempt at a fifth career 147 to an end after 15 reds and 14 blacks in frame 11, while O'Sullivan's reply in kind came to a halt at nine reds and nine blacks in frame 12.
The world number one led from start to finish and told Eurosport afterwards of the importance of a good start against the five-time world champion.
I knew it was important to get a good start against him because anyone who goes behind to him can just get steamrolled.
"I have to up my game every time I play Ronnie to have a chance," added Trump.
Judd Trump: To defend title against Ronnie O'Sullivan was amazing
AFTERNOON SESSION REPORT
Trump ended the first session four frames from victory after taking a 5-3 lead. He shot out of the blocks after winning a high-quality safety battle in the opening frame, a break of 68 giving him the opening stanza of the pair's 22nd meeting.
And he was soon 2-0 up, albeit having needed a couple of bites at the cherry, but O'Sullivan's profligacy, so absent as he thrashed Joe Perry 6-1 in the semi-final, allowed his opponent ample opportunity. However, O'Sullivan was at his brilliant best to take the third, making 126 to clear the table of all but the black and elicit a raucous cheer from the Belfast crowd.
Trump error allows Ronnie in for masterful 126 break
They were cheering again before the mid-session interval too but it was Trump who drew the plaudits with a similar near-clearance of 123, O'Sullivan's only shot of the frame a loose break-off. O'Sullivan returned to the arena after a 15-minute break knowing that realistically, he had to win at least two of the remaining afternoon frames to ensure he did not have to come back in the evening with too steep a mountain to climb.
'This shows just how good Trump has been!' | Amazing break against Ronnie
He initially did so as well, capitalising on a Trump mistake to make 89 and move back to within one frame despite not playing his best. Trump retaliated at the double though, three half-century breaks earning him frames 6 and 7 to take a 5-2 lead that threatened to blow O'Sullivan out of the water.
However, the Rocket nicked the last frame of the session to leave the match finely poised at 5-3 ahead of the conclusion of the best-of-17 encounter.
EVENING SESSION REPORT
Resuming 5-3 down, O'Sullivan capitalised on an uncharacteristic loose safety from Trump to win a scrappy opening frame of the evening session, but an engaged Belfast crowd were treated to an exhibition of snooker thereafter. World number one Trump restored his two-frame advantage courtesy of a break of 106 and was then on for a maximum at 113 in frame 11, before missing the 15th black.
15 reds, 14 blacks, 1 kick, no maximum – Trump gets agonisingly close to a 147
However, O'Sullivan cut the arrears once more, with nine perfect red and blacks to reduce Trump's advantage to 7-5 before stealing in to pinch frame 13 with a wily 76 to move to within a frame of the defending champion. The pair exchanged big knocks again in frame 14 and 15 - Trump compiling a run of 124 only for O'Sullivan to rattle off a 135 - as the scintillating snooker continued unabated.
Trump sustained his - and the final's excellence - in the next frame dispatching a long red to set up a frame, match and tournament winning 84 to seal a 14th ranking title of his career.