Ronnie O’Sullivan joined boyhood hero Steve Davis and ex-coach Ray Reardon on six world titles on a record-breaking Crucible night.
The Rocket claimed his first Betfred World Championship crown for seven years with an emphatic 18-8 victory over world No 8 Kyren Wilson.
That made him the oldest world champion since Welsh legend Reardon lifted the trophy in 1978 at the age of 45 years and 203 days.
But the history did not stop there for a player instantly hailed as ‘the greatest’ by Wilson and Barry Hearn. This was a 37th ranking title success for O’Sullivan at 44 and 254 days, now one clear of retired Scot Stephen Hendry.
It extends his own record to 20 Triple Crown wins, which also includes the UK Championship and the Masters.
Almost the only other significant record still eluding him is Hendry’s seven world titles — and that is now well within reach.
O’Sullivan picked up the biggest winner’s cheque of his illustrious career, a handsome £500,000 for 17 days’ work.
Kissed and hugged by fiancee and actress Laila Rouass, O’Sullivan said: ‘There was a part of me that didn’t believe I would win this again, I don’t play enough to justify winning a tournament of this stature.
‘It’s an endurance test and I am not an endurance snooker player — I don’t play enough snooker. But my thing is longevity.
‘Ray Reardon was the governor in his era, Steve Davis was then the governor, then Stephen Hendry and then maybe me, John Higgins and Mark Williams.
‘I had half a chance, though I never thought I would win it. Listen, any world title is up there, it’s great to win over 17 days. But Kyren’s time will come, he has the hunger.
‘I am happy to be one of the greats. I was happy with one world title, two was great -—but John Higgins has four, he’s a great, so four is the mark.’
Wilson, who pocketed a £200,000 runners-up cheque, said: ‘I am 28 years old and I am not going to beat myself up too much.
‘I am playing the greatest of all time, it was a dream come true playing Ronnie in the final. You can’t respect him too much or he will walk all over you — and that is what has happened today.
‘But I have the two most important people in the world to me sitting in my chair, my boys Finlay and Bailey, and that’s what counts.’
It marked the end of an extraordinary World Championship, one that might never have taken place. Only a huge effort from organisers saw a green light from Government.
The crowd present on day one before the doors were closed were back after 14 days for the showpiece, and a lucky 300 roared their approval.
World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn, long-time manager and friend of Davis, said: ‘Ronnie is the greatest player ever to hold a cue.
‘Hendry was a winning machine and more dedicated, and Steve in his era was head and shoulders above. But my call on Ronnie is based on all-round ability and the evidence I have before me.
‘Going past Stephen Hendry’s record of ranking titles makes him the best player ever to hold a cue. And that is from a Davis fan and someone who thought Hendry was more of a winner than Davis.’
Davis said: ‘Clearly this win, his first world title for seven years, brings into question Stephen Hendry’s record of seven — and you’d have to say Ronnie can do that now.’
Wilson began Sunday afternoon suffering with an upset stomach and was ill before the first frame.
He won that, and ‘Disco Inferno’ blared out in error. An irritated O’Sullivan asked: ‘You’re not doing that every frame, are you?’
O’Sullivan punished a string of errors, winning the remaining seven frames of the third session. Needing just one frame in the evening, he soon wrapped up a famous victory.