title defence

Mark Selby lands world snooker championship with thrilling win over John Higgins

Selby became only the fourth player in the past 40 years to retain the title.

MARK SELBY SHOOK off his Sunday struggles to retain the World Snooker Championship title with a magnificent Monday performance at the Crucible, holding off a late John Higgins revival for an 18-15 triumph.

Betfred Snooker World Championships 2017 - Day Seventeen - Crucible Theatre Steven Paston Steven Paston

An out-of-sorts Selby failed to find top gear on day one of the final as four-time champion Higgins opened up a six-frame advantage, although victory in the last three frames of the second session put the Englishman firmly in contention at 10-7 down overnight.

Selby – beaten by Higgins in the 2007 final – had appeared jaded following a draining semi-final victory over the excellent Ding Junhui, but he rediscovered his form on Monday to claim a third world crown in four years.

The day’s early exchanges were not pretty, yet Selby dominated the scoreboard during two sessions that saw both players struggle to finish the job in one visit, winning 11 of the 16 frames played.

Selby then shrugged off a controversial foul call with victory in sight, putting the match to bed with back-to-back frames.

The result makes Selby only the fourth man to win consecutive finals at the Crucible, after Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Selby’s winning momentum from Sunday’s evening session carried into Monday’s early frames as he took the opening two to close within one of Higgins at 10-9.

Betfred Snooker World Championships 2017 - Day Seventeen - Crucible Theatre Steven Paston Steven Paston

He should have been level after the next but a pair of costly misses allowed Higgins to get off the mark for the day, despite making a trio of identical in-offs when snookered behind the yellow earlier in the frame.

Both players were having to feed off each other’s scraps during a turgid start to the day, and Selby snatched an attritional 44-minute 21st frame to close the gap once more.

Selby hit something like his stride to pull level with an impressive break of 67 after the mid-session interval, Higgins losing the lead for the first time since going 3-2 in front on Sunday, before the world number one rattled in a 58 to re-take the lead.

Betfred Snooker World Championships 2017 - Day Seventeen - Crucible Theatre Steven Paston Steven Paston

Selby was beginning to strut around the table with confidence and his 72 break in the 24th saw him end a curtailed third session two frames in front.

Higgins stopped the rot in the second frame of the final session but Selby was soon back in control as he closed to within two of the winning line.

Breaks of 88 and 111 demonstrated just what Higgins was capable of as he clung on to the hope of mounting a late fightback, and a controversial win in the next had the feel of a key moment in the clash.

An attempted roll up behind the black by Selby was called as a foul by referee Jan Verhaas, although the player himself felt he had made contact with the ball.

The decision left Selby stewing in his chair as a rejuvenated Higgins went on to clinch a frame that closed the gap to one, with replays suggesting Verhaas’ call was a tight but accurate one.

Selby did not allow the incident to distract him, however, going on to compile a superb break of 131 to put himself on the brink of victory, before clinching the 33rd frame for a win that sees him add to the titles he won in 2014 and 2016.

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