Ronnie O’Sullivan rattled off a magnificent seven frames in a row to claim a record-equalling fourth BetVictor Welsh Open title on Sunday night.
The Rocket trailed Neil Robertson 5-2 at one stage at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff – but ran out a 9-5 winner to leave the Australian in shell-shock and claim the £60,000 first prize.
O’Sullivan, who ties Steve Davis and John Higgins on 28 ranking titles, finished with a flourish and a break of 141 – his 10th century of the week.
And he has now astonishingly won all 19 matches he has played in 2016 after also winning the Masters at a canter last month.
While there was plenty to marvel at in O’Sullivan’s achievement and the way he turned the match on its head, there was also an element of anti-climax about the contest.
World No3 Robertson, certainly the player of the season before this final, has not only been hailed as one of the few realistic barriers to O’Sullivan dominance – but got himself in a position to win this match.
But in most un-Robertson fashion the 34-year-old allowed some bad run and missed chances to affect his performance, and O’Sullivan simply leapt on the errors.
O’Sullivan, who started the event with a row over snubbing the chance of a 147, said: “I played a lot better here this week than I did at the Masters and really found some fluency.
“It is a fourth Welsh Open title – but I’d like it better if I could win it five times.
“I feel shattered, and could really doing with relaxing for a month, playing some exhibitions in order to give Sheffield and the world title a real shot. That’s the one we all want.
“I think Neil is the best player at the moment, he was at 75 or 80 per cent tonight but I was determined that if he won he was going to have to earn it.”
Robertson said: “In a way I feel I threw it away. There was a key first frame of the evening when I went into the pack and got nothing, 5-4 and 6-3 are a lot different.
“Ronnie is a great front-runner and when he gets his tail up and some momentum he is hard to stop.”
After Barry Hawkins’ capitulation at the Masters the same was not expected in Wales – but even Robertson crumbled under the pressure.
The week had of course started with a storm over O’Sullivan refusing the chance of a 14th career 147 maximum break.
The 40-year-old O’Sullivan deliberately passed up the chance against first-round opponent Barry Pinches, taking a pink and a 146 as a protest over a £12,000 prize he called “not enough”.
Some fellow pros thought he had a point – but others, including Ali Carter, thought he was being selfish and could have donated the prize to charity.
The headlines and spotlight would have thrown many out of their stride – but snooker maverick O’Sullivan responded with a week of utter brilliance.
Always his own harshest critic, the Rocket claimed after his semi-final win over Joe Perry that he had rarely played better than in Cardiff.
The Australian had been itching for a crack at O’Sullivan over distance ever since a painful Crucible last-16 loss four years ago.
A combination of O’Sullivan playing less, and the luck of the draw, meant that Robertson’s 5-1 win in the 2010 World Open showpiece was their only previous final.
Robertson won this season’s UK Championship and Champion of Champions during O’Sullivan’s latest eight-month sabbatical.
And O’Sullivan won January’s Masters without directly running into Robertson, Judd Trump or John Higgins – something the Australian pointed out this week.
O’Sullivan had a near-miss in the last of the session at 5-2 down, when Robertson had to tell referee Terry Camilleri to issue his opponent with a warning after missing the brown twice with the black visible. A third miss could have seen O’Sullivan docked a frame.
But having got out of jail O’Sullivan capitalised on misses from a suddenly demoralised opponent, adding the first four frames of the evening to lead 7-5. And he soon closed out the match.
Photograph courtesy of Monique Limbos