Bingham sees off Murphy for Crucible glory

Perennial underdog Stuart Bingham was last night crowned champion of the world after beating Shaun Murphy in a thrilling final.

Stuart Bingham celebrates with the trophy.

The Betfred World Championship climax was a battle of two contrasting stories. Murphy was looking to mark the 10th anniversary of clinching his first Crucible title in 2005 with his second world title, while 38-year-old journeyman Bingham was on an amazing ride after 20 years of hard-luck stories in Sheffield.

Leading 15-12, Bingham was pegged back to 15-15, before a 64-minute frame tilted the battle in the Essex cueman’s favour and he edged over the line for a 
18-15 victory.

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Bingham became the oldest first-time Crucible winner since Ray Reardon, who was 45 when he triumphed in 1978. Reardon, however, had won the title five times previously before the event came to Sheffield.

Bingham – who turns 39 in a fortnight, on May 21 – has been a professional for 20 years, but only once before had he got beyond the second-round stage in Sheffield. That came in 2013, when he lost in the quarter-finals 13-4 to Ronnie O’Sullivan.

He made his breakthrough in 2011, aged 35, when he won the Australian Open and joined the elite top 16, but this season has seen him peak with titles at the Shanghai Masters and Championship League.

He entered the Crucible as a 50-1 shot, but those odds quickly tumbled after the Basildon-born cueman knocked out then title favourites Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump.

Trailing 9-8 overnight against eighth seed Murphy, Bingham won the opening four frames to go 12-9 ahead, and the afternoon session 6-2 to lead 14-11.

It was a reversal of fortune as Murphy had dominated the opening exchanges in the first two sessions on Sunday, racing into a 3-0 lead, then from 4-4 heading into the evening, pulling away to 8-4.

A length-of-the-table red earned Bingham his first chance yesterday and the Essex potter knocked in a frame-winning break of 87 to level at 9-9.

Unlike previous finals, the majority of this contest was a high-scoring affair between two players who were intent on attacking, rather than cat-and-mouse safety battles. Yet frame 19 started and finished with an exchanges of safety shots. Murphy had the first chance, but the 32-year-old made a mistake – out of keeping with the match – as he missed a relatively easy red into the bottom corner.

It was the same pocket which halted Bingham’s 51 break, before he cleaned up the colours after Murphy missed an ambitious long red.

At 10-9, it was the first time in the contest Bingham had been ahead, and he almost celebrated with a maximum 147.

He knocked in 14 reds and blacks, only to fall just short on the final red and miss out on a £30,000 prize. With Canadian Cliff Thorburn – the first player to make a maximum 147 at the Crucible – watching in the theatre audience, Bingham at least had the consolation of winning the frame and another century break, 112.

Murphy had been kept cold, struggling to get his hand on the table, and when the Masters champion missed an early blue, Bingham knocked in a 50 break to move 12-9 ahead – having won eight out of the last nine frames.

The mid-session interval revived Murphy, who returned with a 59 break, his first meaningful contribution of the day.

But the 32-year-old was still struggling to find his potting arm, missing two good chances early in frame 23, Bingham profiting with an 87 break.

At 13-10 down, the pressure was now on Murphy, who had history of coming from behind in a Crucible final. He was 10-6 down overnight to Matthew Stevens in 2005, before clinching an 18-16 win to lift the trophy as a 150-1 qualifier.

And even though his 84 break was welcome, Murphy was missing too many pots, Bingham’s 57 break earning a 14-11 lead going into the final session.

The 2005 champion needed an immediate response, and he won four of the opening five frames last night to level at 15-15

Frame 26 was only the second frame of the match so far where neither player pocketed a 50-plus break, Murphy clawing back the deficit on his return to the arena.

Bingham hammered in a century, 102, but then in successive frames failed to take early chances.

He looked set to go 16-12 ahead but broke down on 47. Faced with some tricky reds along the cushions, Murphy engineered a stunning clearance of 75 before a 64 break in the following frame made it 15-14.

When Murphy left a red hanging over the pocket in frame 30, Bingham tried an audacious swerve shot round the black, missed the pot, and gift-wrapped the frame to his opponent.

At 15-15, pressure was building on both players, resulting in the longest frame of the match and a tremendous safety scrap.

With just blue, pink and black remaining on the table, and Murphy needing a snooker, Bingham asked the referee for a toilet break, with the frame in its 59th minute.

Both players left the arena, and on their return Bingham wrapped up the frame in 64 minutes.

It was a stamina-sapping frame, but Bingham was back with a 55 break in frame 32.

Murphy was hanging on, but a risky long-range red stayed up and the advantage was with the Essex potter, who stood one frame away from the biggest pay day of his career, a £300,000 winner’s cheque.

Murphy was in the balls in the next frame, but nerves seemed to get the better of him, as Bingham pounced for an 88 break – punching the air in delight when he realised victory was his – to complete a whirlwind 17 days which will go down in the Crucible’s sporting folklore.