Ronnie O’Sullivan equalled Steve Davis’ haul of six UK Championship titles by beating Shaun Murphy 10-5 in a high-quality final in York.
O’Sullivan also drew level with Stephen Hendry’s 18 ‘Triple Crown’ titles of the World, UK and Masters events.
The pair shared the first eight frames, each knocking in a century apiece, but O’Sullivan seized control with four breaks over 50 and two further tons.
He won five frames in a row to clinch the £170,000 top prize.
Victory means O’Sullivan now has 31 ranking titles, just five behind Hendry’s all-time record.
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“The records are great,” said O’Sullivan. “I tried my best all week and there’s nothing left. I’m over the moon to win any tournament, let alone the UK Championship.
“I just love playing and love competing and I can’t believe I’m still playing at 42, with all these grey hairs.”
O’Sullivan still a major force
Murphy said it was “a dream come true” to face snooker’s “greatest” in a major final and although he started the match with a 123 clearance, he failed to replicate last month’s victory over O’Sullivan in the invitational Champion of Champions event.
O’Sullivan, who turned 42 during the tournament, had been critical of his standards this season, stating he has had to “tough it out” like world number one Mark Selby in some matches.
But having been pegged back to 5-5 by Murphy, the ‘Rocket’ was at his fluent best in the evening session, producing scores of 75, 104, 76, 103, 86 and 59 in a superb run of play.
By gaining revenge for last month’s loss, he moved up to second in the world rankings behind runaway leader Selby, who beat O’Sullivan in the 2016 final.
This was O’Sullivan’s third ranking title triumph in seven weeks after the English Open in October and Shanghai Masters in November.
Such has been the top two’s dominance, between them they have now claimed the last six Triple Crown events.
O’Sullivan now heads to the Masters in January where he will look to retain thr trophy and overtake Hendry’s tally of 18 Triple Crown titles, although he remains two behind the Scot’s seven world successes.
Nearly man Murphy misses out… again
Murphy, like O’Sullivan, has been in excellent form this season, but has now lost in three ranking final events this term and nine in his career.
Although he has won one each of the World, UK and Masters titles, Murphy could have obtained multiple ‘Triple Crowns’ during his career but has lost twice at the Crucible, twice in York and once at Alexandra Palace.
The 35-year-old produced some of his best snooker in this tournament and while his long-range potting was outstanding, he let himself down with loose safety play.
“I want to congratulate Ronnie for equalling the record. It’s a phenomenal achievement,” said Murphy.
“I’ve had a phenomenal 12 days – the fans have made it so special. It’s not the ending I wanted, but I’ve had a great time.”
How the contest unfolded
The tournament looked to be going the way of a surprise winner at the last-16 stage when the likes of Selby and former champions Judd Trump and Ding Junhui suffered early exits. However, the two remaining seeds made it through to the final.
Both players scored a century and O’Sullivan compiled a 62 as they shared the first four frames.
O’Sullivan then opened a two-frame advantage by punishing his opponent’s poor safety play, but Murphy hit back with breaks of 69 and 52 to end the first session all square at 4-4.
Five-time world champion O’Sullivan took four of the next five with precision for an 8-5 advantage, including breaks of 75, 76, 104 and 103 to take his tally to 916 career centuries.
Murphy was on a maximum 147 break in the 14th frame and pocketed seven reds but overcut the sixth black and O’Sullivan took advantage, knocking in an 86 to go one from victory.
And he looked set to seal it with another century before a poor positional shot saw him stall on 59 but it proved enough to claim the title.
BBC pundits on Ronnie’s greatness
Six-time world and UK champion Steve Davis: “On his day, Ronnie O’Sullivan is not just the most mercurial and most amazing player who has played the game, he is also one of the greatest winning machines we’ve had.
“He is also one of the greatest sporting personalities this country has ever produced.”
Former world and UK champion John Parrott: “Who would have thought when he won the event as a 17-year old, here he would be, all of these years later, still doing it. There have been players who have come and gone from the circuit, but he’s still here and he’s still the best.”
|Previous UK Championship finals|
|2016: Mark Selby 10-7 Ronnie O’Sullivan|
|2015: Neil Robertson 10-5 Liang Wenbo|
|2014: Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-9 Judd Trump|
|2013: Neil Robertson 10-7 Mark Selby|
|2012: Mark Selby 10-5 Shaun Murphy|
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