SHEFFIELD (Reuters) - Mark Selby beat fellow Englishman Shaun Murphy to claim a fourth world snooker title on Monday as a capacity crowd was allowed at a British sporting event for the first time in more than a year.
Selby, nicknamed the Jester from Leicester, held his nerve in a tense evening session to triumph 18-15 and claim the title for the first time since 2017.
The 37-year-old led 10-7 after Sunday's first two sessions but Murphy won Monday's opening frame and came agonisingly close to making it 10-9 when a final black failed to from in frame 19.
Selby potted the black to lead 11-8 and looked comfortable as he moved 17-13 ahead.
But with the almost 1,000 fans, all wearing face coverings, desperate to witness some late drama Murphy made consecutive century breaks to close to within two frames.
Murphy, who won the 2005 title as a 150-1 qualifier, looked poised to narrow the gap to one frame but he narrowly missed a crucial last red and Selby pounced to make a winning clearance and take the title.
"To win it four times is something I could only have dreamed of," Selby said. "I thought Shaun played fantastic all the way through the match. He's a great, great player, a great ambassador for the game."
Murphy said playing in front of a capacity crowd at snooker's iconic venue had been extra special.
"Sport is nothing without fans and we've been thrilled to have everyone back and a full house tonight," he said.
The Bank Holiday finale was a significant moment for British sport as a capacity crowd was allowed inside an arena for the first time in more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Master of ceremonies Rob Walker said it was a Crucible roar like no other as the players resumed on Monday in front of 980 fans, all of whom had negative COVID-19 tests.
"The final transcends snooker," he said. "You couldn't feel the electricity to begin with but as we've edged towards the end you've felt it and we've heard the Crucible roar," he said.
The tournament, part of the government's pilot scheme to ensure fans can safely return to sporting and cultural venues, was restricted to 33% capacity at the start with 75% allowed for the quarter-finals and semi-finals.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)