The 46-year-old sobbed as he embraced opponent Judd Trump, after an 18-13 win to equal legend Stephen Hendry’s seven Crucible crowns.
It was a rare show of emotion for a player who won his first world title back in 2001. O’Sullivan had to hold his nerve after seeing his 12-5 overnight lead slashed to 14-11, as Trump – the 2019 world champion – staged an unlikely fightback.
“That’s probably the best result I’ve ever had,” said O’Sullivan. “It was a titanic battle against a strong competitor who is young and hungry.
“I had to fight for every point. Even at 12-5 I knew it wasn’t over. As far as I’m concerned, Judd is already an all time great.
“The way he plays the game, he plays such dynamic snooker. He’s going to be winning this a few times and the other guys better get their act together.
“I gave him a big hug at the end and was sobbing in his arms. He said some lovely words. What he said to me blew me away.
“He’s a great lad and I didn’t realise what he thought of me until then. He’s great for snooker.
“I have been emotional for the last few years, I suppose that happens when you get older.
“I’m 46 and playing against guys in their early 20s. They are forcing me to stay fit and healthy and to keep a sensible schedule.
“It was a marvellous moment tonight and great to share it with my family.”
Trump added: “I tried my best to get back into it, but I left it too late. I gave it my all, I was still in it coming into tonight, but I knew it was going to be tough.
“I had my chances – my long potting was pretty good, I just was not as fluent as I usually am in among the balls.
“It’s an amazing achievement for him and for snooker, it was only really a matter of time before he got to seven.
“He has dedicated himself to it for the last 30 years, I will not be surprised if he goes out and beats the record now.
“I am proud because I dug in and gave myself a shot at it. It looked like it was going to be a disappointing tournament at the start,
“I managed to turn it into a positive one. I made a fight of it against the best player of all time and 18-13 is not a bad scoreline.”