Mark Selby creates Crucible history with maximum 147 in World Championship final
The four-time world champion may trail Belgium’s Luca Brecel 9-8 when they return on Monday, but he was the toast of Sheffield after his stunning clearance.
Selby was congratulated by Brecel, received a warm embrace from Sheffield referee Brendan Moore – officiating in his final match before retiring – and given a standing ovation from a thrilled packed theatre audience.
His perfect clearance of 15 reds and blacks, plus the colours, is only the 14th 147 at the Crucible, and comes on the 40th anniversary of Cliff Thorburn’s first maximum in 1983.
And while Selby will now share the £40,000 maximum bonus, plus £15,000 top break prize, with Kyren Wilson – after his earlier 147 against Ryan Day – the frame was also key in the Leicester potter’s pursuit of Brecel.
It came in the penultimate frame of the evening, as Selby clawed back a 9-5 deficit to trail by just a single frame in their best-of-35 final.
The narrative going into the final was with world No 10 Brecel, the 28-year-old who had never won a single match at the Crucible before this tournament.
“I didn’t practise for this tournament because I wanted to come here mentally fresh with no expectations,” admitted Brecel, who revealed he got “drunk as hell” in between beating Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
He plays with an unquestionable freedom on the table, a philosophy which probably helped him survive several scares on his unlikely route to the final.
He survived a first-round scare against Ricky Walden, scraping through 10-9, then looked set for a quarter-final exit to defending champion O’Sullivan when he trailed 14-10.
But Brecel reeled off seven successive frames to set-up a semi-final with Sheffield-based Si Jiahui, himself a Crucible debutant who had enjoyed a fairytale story to reach the last four.
Losing 14-5 to Si, Brecel then conjured up the greatest ever Crucible comeback as he won 11 frames in a row to finally triumph 17-15.
“It was incredible. At 14-5 down I was thinking I could lose with a session to spare,” said Brecel afterwards. “To win the last five frames last night was big, especially the last frame when he missed the green which could have made it 15-9. That was a sign for me to keep believing. He wasn’t missing in the first two sessions.
“I will enjoy the final because I shouldn’t be there. It’s a bonus, there is no pressure on me, unless it’s close at the end. I will play my game and go for my shots. It will be amazing.”
And Brecel certainly turned up on Sunday – for the biggest match of his career – playing with a care-free attitude. After Selby’s late night finish against Mark Allen – grinding out a 17-15 semi-final win at 12.48am – the 39-year-old could have been forgiven for looking jaded as he returned just 12 hours later, and duly trailed 6-2 after the opening session.
The contest was portrayed as tactician Selby against the enigmatic Brecel, and the Belgian took advantage of an early fluke to fire in a 77 break inside six minutes.
Selby missed a brown and black and returned to the table needing a snooker in frame two. He achieved that with a snooker behind the black on the final red, but a missed blue allowed Brecel to double the yellow to go 2-0 up.
Selby was first in again with a fabulous long-range red, but the break faltered when he missed the black off its spot and Brecel punished him with a 90 break.
Selby was struggling for fluency, but a 54 clearance allowed him to cut the deficit at 3-1. A 67 break saw Brecel win frame five, but an early shot in the following frame was typical of the 28-year-old’s cavalier approach which flaunts the traditional coaching manual.
Tucked in behind the brown, most players would opt for the snooker, but Brecel fired in the brown to the middle pocket and then watched as the white explode down the table to scatter the pack of reds.
It was not enough to win the frame – both players were guilty of misses – but it was Brecel who came out on top in a 10-minute safety scrap on the blue to edge 5-1 in front.
Selby clawed a frame back with a 62 break, but Brecel responded with a 70 to end the afternoon session 6-2 in front.
Brecel, the youngest player to ever appear at the Crucible, aged 17 back in 2012, had never won a match in his five visits to Sheffield.
But it was Selby who started the better in the evening session, winning three of the opening four frames to made it 7-5, thanks to impressive breaks of 134 and 96 – either side of Brecel’s 99.
Brecel restored his four-frame advantage with knocks of 72 and 67 to ensure an overnight advantage, but it was Selby who took the final three frames of the session to set-up a tantalising final day.