Ronnie O’Sullivan ripped up snooker’s record books on Sunday night after winning the Betway UK Championship.
In the week the five-time world champion suggested a Champions League-style breakaway snooker tour, O’Sullivan proved to be in a league of his own with a stunning 10-6 win over Masters champion Mark Allen.
Not only did the 43-year-old’s victory at the York Barbican complete the ‘Magnificent Seven’ – breaking Steve Davis’s previous record of six UK victories – but he also surpassed Stephen Hendry’s record haul of 18 Triple Crown trophies.
Last night’s win – coming 25 years since the then 17-year-old Chigwell potter first claimed his opening UK title – also saw O’Sullivan pocket £170,000 to swell his prize money earnings to over £500,000 from just five tournaments this season.
World Snooker chief Barry Hearn claims no individual is bigger than the sport, but O’Sullivan – who has already claimed Shanghai Masters and Champion of Champions trophies this season – comes as close to that distinction as is humanly possible.
At 43 he is still pure box office, snooker’s poster boy, and it seems only a matter of time before O’Sullivan wins another three ranking titles to break Hendry’s record haul of 36.
Victory yesterday was never in doubt, after he reeled off six successive frames to come from 2-1 behind to lead 7-2.
Northern Ireland’s Allen was never likely to roll over and make it a formality, but O’Sullivan was not to be denied as he celebrated victory with a huge fist-pump to the packed Barbican crowd.
He said: “(To create) history is amazing, I can’t beleve it.
“It’s great to create history, great to beat the Nugget’s record, amazing to beat my hero’s record – Stephen Hendry, who was the ultimate player – but I have still got eight world titles to get, I will be chasing that.”
Yesterday afternoon’s opening exchanges were of the highest quality. Allen nudged into a 2-1 advantage before being swept aside as O’Sullivan reeled off the next five frames to take a 6-2 lead into last night’s final session in their best-of-19 contest.
The first frame saw O’Sullivan take the advantage, but Allen – in his second UK final, after losing to Judd Trump in 2011 – engineered a snooker on the final red to pinch the frame.
If that was a chance for both players to sound each other out, they came out punching with some quickfire punches to head into the mid-session interval locked at 2-2.
O’Sullivan knocked in a 101 break – his 986th career century – Allen responded with 74. before his opponent rallied with an 85.
All three breaks were founded on glorious long-range opening reds, warmly applauded by the sell-out York crowd.
Tickets for next year’s tournament had gone on sale hours earlier, but those inside the Barbican were witnessing pure snooker magic.
World No 7 Allen produced a rare mistake, missing the black off its spot when attempting to open up the pack of reds.
The only surprise was that O’Sullivan needed two attempts to win the frame, following up an opening 54 with a 66 clearance.
The defending champion’s 57 break, after some tactical jousting, made it 4-2, and after O’Sullivan opened with a 49 break in the next frame, Allen missed a pink to the centre pocket to fall three frames behind.
Both players had chances in the final frame of the afternoon session – the difference between trailing 5-3 and 6-2 a huge psychological swing – but were guilty of leaving reds hanging over the pocket. But it was O’Sullivan who showed his composure to take a 6-2 lead into the evening after a 65 break.
It was a daunting proposition facing Allen, against a player who has cruised through a favourable draw in York. Apart from a narrow 6-5 second-round win over veteran Ken Doherty, world No 3 O’Sullivan has lost just four frames in fives matches.
He whitewashed Zhou Yuelong 6-0, and triumphed 6-1 against Luke Simmonds, Jack Lisowski, Martin O’Donnell and Tom Ford.
Allen, in comparison, had a much tougher route to the final, the 32-year-old having to overcome former world champions Neil Robertson and Stuart Bingham, as well as world No 15 Stephen Maguire.
O’Sullivan made it six successive frames on their return to the Barbican arena last night, before Allen showed his fighting spirit.
A 56 break was quickly followed by a 105 clearance –sparked by an astonishing three-ball plant on a red – to cut the deficit to 7-4.
But O’Sullivan held his nerve with a 46 break to restore the four-frame cushion, before the mid-session interval.
Allen was first in the points on their return, with a 45 break, but O’Sullivan cleared the table with a 57-point haul – including a stunning pink to the corner – to snatch the frame and pull away to 9-4.
The chance of a maximum 147 was a real possiblilty for the Irishman after nine blacks, but Allen missed the 10th red, although breaks of 72, 68 and 59 helped him win back-to-back frames but it was only delaying the inevitable.
O’Sullivan got in first in frame 16 with a long red, and he fired in a 78 break to confirm a 10-6 win and his place in snooker history.