His 18-13 victory over Judd Trump in front of a sell-out Crucible crowd ensured O’Sullivan equalled Stephen Hendry’s seven world titles record – 21 years after he first lifted the famous trophy.
And at 46, O’Sullivan is also the oldest ever world champion, surpassing Ray Reardon who was 45 when he triumphed in Sheffield back in 1978.
After fending off a spirited Trump fightback, seeing his overnight lead slashed from 12-5 to 14-11, the world No 1 held his nerve with an 85 break to secure victory and £500,000 top prize.
But the emotion of the occasion, and matching Hendry’s record feat, was too much for O’Sullivan, who had a long embrace with Trump before wiping away the tears of joy.
“I tried to be as relaxed as I could but that is probably the greatest result I’ve had against somebody like Judd,” said O’Sullivan.
“As far as I’m concerned this fella [Trump] is already an all-time great the way he plays the game.
“I’ve never bothered about records – when you get them, it’s kinda nice, I’ve never performed well if going for that, I’ve just tried to enjoy my game.
“I don’t have targets. I’ve loved every tournament this year, I’ve just loved playing. I like to win but it’s not the be-all and end-all. The Crucible brings out the worst in me - it’s probably not the best idea but we’ll probably go again next year!”
And on this form, nobody would bet against an eighth Crucible crown for O’Sullivan in 12 months’ time.
O’Sullivan’s 39th ranking title delivered a 21st Triple Crown victory as he has already won the UK Championship and Masters seven times apiece.
Trump said: “It was just a joy for me to be out there playing. I gave it my all. I just try to play with a smile on my face, freedom, and I’m just enjoying my snooker again.”
Trump’s tournament has been something of a rollercoaster.
From his quarter-final with Stuart Bingham, where he trailed 8-5 before reeling off eight successive frames to win 13-8.
The 32-year-old then raced into a 7-1 and 12-5 lead against Mark Williams, before the Welshman clawed his way back to force a final-frame decider.
So even as Trump – the 2019 world champion – returned to the Crucible on Monday, trailing 12-5, this famous old theatre was never going to allow the curtain go down on 17 days of thrilling snooker without a final act and encore.
And so it transpired, Trump opening and ending Monday’s afternoon session, which he won 6-2, with a century break to head into the evening just 14-11 behind.
The pair both had early chances, but it was Trump who won the opening frame with a 107 clearance - his first century of the final. It was memorable for an early black along the cushion, before a pink into the centre, which helped the Bristol cueman settle his nerves.
Trump smashed in a long pink, before bulldozing through the pack of reds to sit nicely on the pink in frame 19. It was a shot worthy of winning the frame, and although O’Sullivan returned, he missed a red into the centre, and Trump swept up with a 59 break.
And when Trump won his third frame of the afternoon - much to the relief of fans who had tickets for the evening session, who were now guaranteed some action - momentum was starting to build.
But an attempted plant, employing two reds, into the centre pocket failed, O’Sullivan silenced the murmurs of a comeback with a 64 clearance to head into the mid-session break leading 13-8. O’Sullivan had not been seriously tested in Sheffield this year, knocking out David Gilbert 10-5, Mark Allen 13-4, Stephen Maguire 13-5 before beating John Higgins 17-11 in the semi-final.
But this was a proper examination for the Essex potter. Back-to-back frames for Trump - the second pinched when O’Sullivan left the penultimate red hanging over the pocket - cut the deficit to three frames.
O’Sullivan responded with a 55 break to make it 14-10, but Trump ended the session on a high. Trump missed a long red, but as cries of ‘come on Ronnie’ filled the Crucible, a second red dropped into the centre pocket.
It was a costly fluke, as O’Sullivan was forced to sit and watch as his opponent knocked in a break of 105 to pull it back to 14-11.
Williams has had the most centuries this year with 16, equalling the record for a single player, set by Hendry in 2002.
But on the evening resumption, it was O’Sullivan who won three of the opening frames, to go 17-12, and have one hand on the trophy he previously won in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2020.
Breaks of 82, 88 - after Trump left the black over the pocket - and 75 put O’Sullivan in control, while Trump at least forced a mid-session interval with a 64 clearance.
Trump’s 109 clearance set a new Crucible record for the number of centuries in a tournament, at 109, to pull it back to 17-13. But victory was O’Sullivan’s and a 85 break confirmed his coronation as the new King of the Crucible.