Mark Selby returned the Hall to the Crucible last night as he clinched a fourth world title to join the snooker legends.
The 37-year-old from Leicester beat Shaun Murphy 18-15 in the Betfred World Championship final in Sheffield to pocket the top prize of £ 500,000.
And the centerpiece was greeted from the very first frame to the moment Selby lifted the famous Silver Trophy by a noisy capacity crowd roaring their approval at every opportunity.
It was a huge personal triumph for Selby, even booed by a few fans as he entered the arena last night after a slow line of play in his semi-final win over Stuart Bingham.
He silenced those criticisms as he moved up to second in the world rankings – but overall it also seemed like a pivotal moment for the sport and for society.
Not since the controversial Cheltenham Gold Cup in March 2020, there hadn’t been a crowd at a British sporting event of some sort.
But the blue snooker billiard tournament was selected as one of the government’s largest test pilot events.
The scientific data and evidence collected will be used to help the public return safely not only to indoor sport, but also to theater, performances, comedy and music concerts.
And as a result, Selby may not be the only big winner of the annual 17-day mind and body marathon, with a keen interest in other players in sports and the arts.
Leicester Jester become only the fifth player to win four Crucible World Crowns.
He is at the same level as John Higgins, and now behind only Ronnie O’Sullivan, Ray Reardon and Steve Davis on six, and record holder Stephen Hendry on seven.
In a clash of playstyles and approach, it was defense that prevailed over offense, with counter-cutter and tactical master Selby keeping Murphy’s aggressive and striker at bay.
The two share a coach in Chris Henry, whose complicated duties yesterday included changing locker rooms during the various intervals at breakneck speed.
However, it was clearly a disappointing night for Murphy, who also lost his last Crucible final six years ago to Stuart Bingham.
The sold-out crowd lined up in the drizzle at Tudor Square yesterday, but after a season behind closed doors and testing and accommodation hurdles overcome, the rain hasn’t stopped them.
And the famous Crucible roar, a prolonged explosion of noise and a standing ovation as Selby and Shaun Murphy took the stage twice yesterday.
The moments offered a reminder of what was lacking in snooker, the sport and the world at large.
The long format of the World Championship final allows for ebb and flow – and it has been in this competition.
Selby resumed yesterday with a 10-7 lead and although Murphy launched an attack in the afternoon session his opponent nearly held him at bay.
And armed with a 14-11 advantage heading into the evening’s final, Selby simply had too much on hand for Murphy to come close.
A magnificent 120 break left a seemingly nervous-free Selby at 17-13, and although Murphy struggled with two centuries of himself, it was too late.