MARK SELBY edged a Crucible thriller to reach his second Dafabet World Championship final in Sheffield on Saturday night.
Selby defeated world no.1 Neil Robertson 17-15 after an epic battle at the iconic Yorkshire theatre which lasted more than 12 hours.
It puts him through to the best of 35 frame final against Ronnie O’Sullivan, with £300,000 going to the eventual winner on Monday night.
Selby said: “Neil played fantastic snooker all through the match. Every time I got a few frames in front and his back was against the wall he just showed his class and came back at me. It was blow for blow towards the end.
“I’ve played everybody in the past and when you leave them a long ball you want them to go for it but with Neil every time he played a long ball I was thinking he’d smash it in and win the frame, and more often than not he did."
The official match time was 12 hours, four minutes, with Selby clinching victory at 10.30pm after O’Sullivan earned a whole day off with his session-to-spare win over Barry Hawkins on Friday night.
Selby said: “I don’t feel too bad at the moment but I’m sure when I get back to the room I won’t sleep because of all the adrenalin for tomorrow. But I’m looking forward to it and I’ll go out and enjoy it.
“Ronnie’s a genius. He doesn’t fear anyone. I’ve watched his performances this week and he’s played great snooker in patches. In other patches he’s missed a few balls and people haven’t punished him. I know I’m going to get my chances, it’s just whether I take them or not.”
Selby was leading 9-7 after the second session but Robertson won a tough, attritional but high quality session to leave the match tied going into the evening.
There was a fluent start to the morning as Selby won the opener with a run of 104 and Robertson claimed the second with one of 85. But some long safety exchanges followed, with the third frame of the day lasting 51 minutes and the fourth 44.
The players entered the interval level at 10-10 – the match all square for the first time since it was 5-5 – before Selby’s 73 gave him the next.
Selby, runner-up in the 2007 World Championship, also won frame 22 but Robertson launched a fine rearguard action, winning the last two frames to make the evening session a best of nine.
Robertson won the first frame of the night with a run of 74 and was in on 40 in the next with a chance to lead 14-12 but went into the pack and failed to get position. Selby got in with a 79 clearance and won the next to lead 14-13 before Robertson made it 14-14 at the interval.
With tension rising, Selby upped his game with runs of 77 and 54 to get to the brink at 16-14 but lost position early in the next and Robertson knocked in a great long red before running 108, his tenth century of the tournament and 103rd of the season.
But Selby put together a break of 74 to get over the line and reach the world final for the first time since 2007, when he was beaten 18-13 by John Higgins.
“As far as the overall standard goes it has to be up there with any semi-final that’s ever been played here. There was hardly anything missed. It was an unbelievable match,” Robertson said.
“I’ve played well here and reached the (centuries) milestone but the run wasn’t with me. But it terms of the way he held himself together under pressure, he did fantastically well.
“I’m really disappointed. If you’d have told me that this is how I would play tonight I’d think I’d be playing Ronnie in the final but Mark matched me all the way, he played some fantastic stuff. I haven’t bottled it in any way. I didn’t miss a ball to miss the match. Neither did he. The way we won our frames tonight was through brilliant safety play, great long pots and big breaks.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos.