Ronnie O’Sullivan claimed a record-breaking seventh UK Championship title with a 10-6 victory over Mark Allen at the York Barbican on Sunday.
His triumph, which came a quarter of a century after he won his first United Kingdom crown as a 17-year-old, also saw O’Sullivan nudge ahead of Stephen Hendry with 19 ‘triple crown’ titles – comprising the World and UK Championships and the Masters.
The 43-year-old reeled off six consecutive frames to establish a four-frame advantage at the interval and, despite a brief rally by Allen, he wrapped up victory with a break of 78.
It capped a tumultuous tournament for O’Sullivan, who had threatened to launch a breakaway tour, then required a final-frame decider to edge past the 49-year-old Ken Doherty in round two.
But O’Sullivan was in imperious form against Allen, who was looking to add a second major title to the Masters he won in January yet had expressed dissatisfaction with his performances all week.
The Northern Irishman took a scrappy opener then moved ahead again with a break of 74 after O’Sullivan had levelled with a break of 101 in the second frame. But then it was all O’Sullivan as he proceeded to punish a series of costly errors by Allen and reel off six frames in succession.
A superb long red set O’Sullivan up to draw level again with a break of 85 and he went ahead with two 50-plus breaks in the next after Allen had missed a black off its spot.
A loose safety shot let O’Sullivan in to make it 4-2 with a break of 57, a brilliant long blue paved the way to extend his lead to three frames and, when Allen missed an easy red in a potentially pivotal eighth, there seemed no way back.
It was business as usual at the start of the evening session as O’Sullivan took the first frame with ease to move to 7-2 before Allen responded well to stop his opponent’s streak at six. His first century of the match reduced the deficit to 7-4 but O’Sullivan took the next two frames, including a brilliant clearance of 63 to extinguish Allen’s 59-point advantage and move within one frame of victory.
A remarkable twist looked on the cards as Allen responded with nine reds and nine blacks to threaten a 147 in the next and despite stalling on 72, he followed up with 59 to pull back to 9-6 before O’Sullivan finished in style.
“History is fantastic,” he told BBC Sport afterwards. “It’s amazing, I can’t believe it. Just to be involved in the final, playing Mark who is an unbelievable player, an unbelievable competitor.
“If he doesn’t win the world title I’ll be so surprised because it’s not just about talent, it’s about bottle, courage and he’s got that in abundance. You need that to win titles.
“I played very well today and I was still having to convince myself to believe that I could win because that’s how hard a match it felt.”
O’Sullivan had previously shared the record for UK titles with Steve Davis.“To beat Davis’s record and to beat Stephen Hendry, who is my hero and the ultimate player, is just crazy.
“I never thought I would be chasing these kinds of records. I just want to get my head down and play but I don’t want to stop there — I want to put in some distance and make it harder for the next guy to overtake me.”
After years of threatening to walk away from the sport, O’Sullivan now appears thoroughly intent on committing himself for the long term.
He added: “I was playing for the fans today. It’s payback time — they have supported me for so long and they go through it all with me so I just need to play with a smile on my face.
“I am not setting myself any limits. I will play as many tournaments as I think I can play, whether they are big or small. It’s just about playing and trying to enjoy it, because it’s a fantastic sport.”