Ronnie O'Sullivan delved into the memory banks to find form from nowhere and stun Neil Robertson to claim the World Grand Prix title for a third time.
O’Sullivan advanced to the final despite being well short of his best, and said he stunk the joint out in his win over Stuart Bingham in the semi-finals.
He struggled to get going against Robertson, but something clicked during the final interval as he recovered from trailing 7-5 to winning 10-8 for his 38th ranking title - 28 years on from his first.
'It felt good to be out there' – O'Sullivan hits first century of season in stunning return
The world number three was beaten in five finals last season, but put that right in his first of this campaign for his first title since the World Championship of 2020.
O’Sullivan got in first in the ninth and had a chance to build on his stunning steal in the final frame of the afternoon, but broke down quickly and Robertson knocked in an audacious double to get going and it set him on his way to restoring his advantage.
Cue-ball control is usually O’Sullivan’s forte, but it’s been an issue all week in Coventry. It was again in evidence in the 10th, as he got in and looked good making 36, but ran out of position again. On this occasion Robertson did not punish, and the six-time world champion got back in to level the contest.
For two of the game’s heaviest scorers, it came as a surprise that it took 11 frames for the first century to be made. Robertson stroked in a glorious 128 after an aggressive safety drew an error from O’Sullivan.
Robertson followed up the century with a break of 88 to re-establish a two-frame lead, but that did not tell the whole story of the frame as O’Sullivan got in first with a 49, only to lose the cue ball slightly and miss a tight cut of a red into the bottom right.
O’Sullivan went into the interval with much to ponder, but his form had improved as each of his matches progressed this week. There were signs of something similar upon the resumption as a break of 90 was made in impressive fashion to cut the gap to one.
Natural talent has a big say on the outcome of elite sporting events. Sheer luck can also play a part. In frame 14, O'Sullivan had both on his side. An opening red wriggled in the jaws of the bottom left, rolled along the rail and dropped in the bottom right. It set up a break of 46, which was made with a spring in his step that had been lacking for much of the match. He unfortunately ran out of position when splitting the pack, but got in again to take the frame and level the match.
O’Sullivan looked totally transformed after the interval, and he moved ahead for the first time in the match with a run of 77. The opening red, across the table into the bottom left, suggested he had found the key to his game.
Alarm bells were ringing for Robertson in the 16th, as O'Sullvian knocked in a second successive break of 77 to move two frames clear and one from victory, but Robertson steadied the ship with a break of 78 in the 17th - which was notable given he had been on the end of a barrage - to keep himself alive.
Robertson had a chance in the following frame, but a horrible miscue on the black let in O'Sullivan and held his nerve - as a third run of 77 in a row sealed a stunning win in front of a fervent crowd in Coventry.
Ronnie O'Sullivan twice came back from two frames down to level the 2021 World Grand Prix Final at 4-4 against Neil Robertson in a cagey first session.
O'Sullivan sank the first red of the day but that was the last for him in the opening frame as a wayward safety left Robertson with a red over left middle.
And after a series of reds and blacks, a superb shot from Robertson - draining a long red for frame ball - kept a tricky break going and a run of 72 took the opening frame.
The world number four then doubled his lead after O'Sullivan missed a fizzing long red, leaving a mid-range pot over the right middle that Robertson took gratefully.
But 62 points up, the Australian missed frame ball on the black, leaving the door open for O'Sullivan with 75 points left on the table. But five reds and four blacks later, O'Sullivan could only the find the jaws with a black to hand Robertson the frame.
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But the world number three bounced back ahead of the mid-session interval. The Rocket's first proper visit to the table saw a run 39 before a stray red let Robertson back in.
Yet while Robertson fought back to lead the frame with a swift break of 46, a loose yellow saw the Brit back on the table to take the frame.
O'Sullivan then levelled the error-strewn final in another gripping frame, beating Robertson by the skin of his teeth after yet another missed yellow from the 2010 World Champion.
A messy start after the mid-session interval saw the duo tied at five points apiece after a series of expert safeties as the players struggled to find their potting rhythm.
But yet again it was Robertson who found a way first with a barrage of reds and pinks. O'Sullivan had one more chance at the table but a miss on a simple red to green pocket brought the frame to an end.
A rapid break of 48 from Robertson looked enough for the frame but a loose positional shot off a black gave O'Sullivan a sniff. Yet still far from his best form, the six-time world champion misjudged a safety to leave yet another easy frame for his opponent who restored his two-frame lead.
A surprising miss from Robertson in the seventh frame, hitting the jaws on a red to green pocket gave O'Sullivan a huge opportunity to reduce the deficit. And he produced the best snooker of the match so far with a break of 90 to do just that with a beautifully cut black the highlight of the frame.
And there was more to come from O'Sullivan in a remarkable eighth frame. Robertson took frame ball but a loose yellow gave his opponent a sniff needing just two snookers. The first failed but the second was brilliantly, fiendishly placed up against the pink so that Robertson could not help but oblige with two fouls and a free ball for O'Sullivan.
The Rocket reeled off the remaining reds with two blues and a black, followed by all the colours to level a remarkable match.
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