Ronnie O’Sullivan repelled the determined challenge of Ding Junhui to become the oldest winner of the UK Snooker Championship in York, 30 years after he claimed his first title at the tournament at the age of 17.
O’Sullivan, who turns 48 on Tuesday, triumphed 10-7 after a heavyweight battle with his Chinese opponent, sealing a record-extending eighth UK crown with an exhibition-style finish of 129 amid raucous scenes at the Barbican.
Hauled back from 4-1 and 7-5 leads by Ding, who like O’Sullivan won his first UK title as a teenager in 2005, the world number one dug deep when it mattered and consecutive breaks of 100 and 74 set him up for his final flourish.
It was an admirable effort from the Chinese player, who had clambered off his sick bed to sink defending champion Mark Allen on the opening day having seriously considered withdrawing from the tournament.
But ultimately O’Sullivan, who had seldom been required to find his best form during his journey through the tournament, had just enough to leave Ding contemplating a second consecutive final defeat.
Ding had clawed back to level at 4-4 at the end of an absorbing opening session, after a series of costly errors gifted O’Sullivan the early advantage.
Three times the 36-year-old blew early frame-winning opportunities to fall 3-0 then 4-1 behind before belatedly stirring to reel off three frames in a row including breaks of 114 and 70.
O’Sullivan wasted no time in re-establishing his lead in the first frame of the evening with a break of 84, but there was a hint of impatience in the next when he opted not to play on despite trailing by 51 and only requiring one snooker.
Ding appeared intent on pressing home his advantage but was punished for taking on some risky long shots in the next two frames, O’Sullivan edging ahead again with breaks of 40 and 87, then emerging from a scrappy spell in the next to reach the interval 7-5 in front.
A hard-earned 58 from Ding brought him back within one frame before a magnificent 104, his second century of the final, pulled him level again.
Anything Ding could do, O’Sullivan could do too, and the momentum swung back in the direction of the world champion in the next frame when he responded with a century of his own, a 100, his first of the final.
A brilliant pink from O’Sullivan set him up to move one frame from victory with a break of 74, and he completed his win in his own irresistible fashion with his second three-figure finish.