It was not without a scare or two but Anthony Hamilton saw off former world champion Stuart Bingham 6-4 at around 1am on Sunday morning to reach the German Masters final.
There he will face Ali Carter, who came through his semi-final far more comfortably earlier in the day with a 6-2 win over defending champion Martin Gould.
But despite Carter’s own incredible recent history and health battles to get back to the top, it was Hamilton’s day in Berlin at a sold-out Tempodrom.
The 45-year-old from Nottingham is in his 26th year as a professional, and has never won a ranking title – arguably the current holder of that unwelcome mantle ‘best player not to do so’.
Joe Perry was another that turned pro in 1991 that was only too glad to remove himself from that argument with his success at the Players Championship two years ago.
But Hamilton’s lack of a major trophy is if anything even more curious, and explanations for his failure to win more are almost certainly complex and deep-rooted.
You could bandy around cod psychology theorising, accusing him of a lack of self-confidence and even an inferiority complex given who he has tussled with from day one in the game.
And you can rue the fact that his relative absence in the latter stages of tournaments has cost us hearing the great nickname ‘The Sheriff of Pottingham’ on a more regular basis.
But Hamilton is, and always has been, a very good player. I recall once speaking to Ronnie O’Sullivan, who cited him as one of only three or four players he would stick with to watch on TV.
Now that may have been earlier in his career, because despite his haul of well over 250 century career breaks Hamilton can these days get very bogged down in a frame.
The match against Bingham was a good example. From 5-1 and the world No2 well out of sorts it was time to stamp on his throat, but Hamilton seemed almost to disrupt his own rhythm.
The previous two ranking finals came in 1999 and 2002, in which he lost respectively 9-7 to Fergal O’Brien at the British Open, and 9-8 to Mark Williams at the China Open.
But given the degree of class that hangs over Hamilton it seems difficult to call him a journeyman. Veteran, certainly, and underachiever without question – but a player, nonetheless.
He has other traits that have endeared him to many, if not always tournament director Mike Ganley. Hamilton’s often scruffy appearance has earned him rebukes from officialdom in the past.
But, and in a non-conformist way that you can’t help but secretly admire, he just doesn’t care. I remember asking him about the dress sense after one of these run-ins with the authorities, ironically at this event a few years ago.
And he basically answered that he didn’t have a lot of money, and he wasn’t going to waste any more than the bare minimum he could get away with to fulfil his playing duties and avoid sanctions. Spending it on travel seemed a much better use of the dosh.
But after all the challenging years and whatever the reasons for his not having more to show for his career, the popular and respected Hamilton now has another, maybe last, chance to get that title.
You have to beat good players as a world No66 to get to a final, and in this event Hamilton had already taken out Anthony McGill, Mark Williams, world No1 and world champion Mark Selby, and Barry Hawkins before Bingham.
He will again be a big underdog against Carter, a former winner in Berlin and already with one ranking title under his belt this season.
But in an era when the likes of Perry have broken their duck late on in life, it wouldn’t be a total surprise if Hamilton completed the fairytale on Sunday night.
Photograph courtesy of World Snooker