Neil Robertson edged past world number one Judd Trump 10-9 to win his third UK Championship in what was an unforgettably epic late night final.
An electrifying contest of high breaks and impeccable cue ball control was expected, but it was a tactical fight.
They shared three centuries in four frames to make it 4-4 after the first session, and there was no more than one frame between them throughout.
Robertson forced a decider, winning it after a battle of more than an hour.
The Australian collected the trophy and £200,000 in prize money at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, for the first UK Championship to take place without any spectators in attendance.
Fans watching at home will have expected two of this season’s in-form players to put on a free-flowing spectacle but neither were anywhere near their pinnacle and ended up slugging it out into early Monday morning until 00:55 GMT.
Robertson told BBC Sport: “It was unbelievable. There was a lot of good stuff, and to use a quote Mark Williams used, it almost got so bad it was so good at one stage, because we’re both trying so hard.
“We don’t want frames to go that length. We like to win frames with big breaks in one visit.
“Maybe because I lost my last two finals I was trying too hard and brought Judd down a bit. But we are both gladiators out there, even without a crowd; we’re both trying so hard to win.”
Robertson gains revenge
Robertson, snooker’s most successful overseas player, had been beaten in two finals this year, including the Champion of Champions, but gained revenge over Trump for beating him at the English Open in October.
That match went to a final-frame decider and this marathon of a contest went all the way too, as he nicked the final pink in the 19th frame after the Englishman’s inexplicable miss into the corner.
Robertson fell short in two previous drawn-out frames in the match, but took the one which mattered the most, adding to his triumphs in 2013 and 2015.
The world number three took his career total to 19 ranking title victories, drawing him level with opponent Trump in joint-sixth place on the all-time list.
Robertson displayed his prowess by taking apart three-time world champion Mark Selby in the quarter-finals and showcased another break-building masterclass against Zhou Yuelong in the semis.
It was nip and tuck throughout the final, Robertson getting bogged down with muddled shot selections at times, but he kept himself together tremendously well in the closing stages.
He made three centuries to take his tally to 13 for the tournament, a new record at the UK Championship – surpassing the 12 compiled by Stephen Hendry in 1994 and Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2003.
Robertson added: “When Judd was 9-8 up, he made an unbelievable break and if the cannon goes any better it is match over – and I made one of the best clearances of my career.
“It was full of highlights, unbelievable misses and tension. Even without a crowd, I am sure everyone at home loved it.”
Trump ‘bottles it’ as winning streak ended
Since the start of last season, Bristol’s Trump has been a class apart, claiming a record six ranking titles last term and a further two from four finals this year.
The 2019 world champion has always been a proficient potter, as well as being armed with a first-class tactical game and exceptional temperament, but uncharacteristically came up short in the latter stages.
Trump said: “It was an epic battle. It’s tough to take and I bottled it really. I was under pressure and ended up messing up.
“I would never have missed from there normally but the whole length of the frame got to me, as well as the pressure, and I was trying too hard.
“It would have made for good viewing but it’s devastating for me.”
Defeated ended his 14-match winning streak, which stretched back to the semi-finals of the Champion of Champions on 7 November, and he must wait to become only the sixth player in history to win 20 or more ranking titles.
Trump was far from his destructive best for much of this tournament, including the final, and could not find a way to cross the winning line on this occasion.
He is scheduled to return to action later on Monday evening in the Scottish Open, though he may request to start his campaign the following day.
‘Those misses for titles leave scars’ – analysis
Six-time world champion Steve Davis on BBC Two:
“It will be easier for Trump to forget that pink he missed because there’s no crowd. It was a surreal match all day long to go with the surreal times we live in.
“It was a granite final frame. How exciting that snooker can keep generating these amazing moments.”
1991 world champion John Parrott:
“It was on the cards to be a very hard-fought final because they are top-class players.
“It was epic, a very sore one for Judd with the pink he missed in the corner right at the end but a very good victory for Neil Robertson.”
Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry:
“That will hurt Judd Trump for a long time. Those misses for titles leave scars.”
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