Mark Allen claimed the World Grand Prix crown after surviving a determined Judd Trump fightback to prevail 10-9 in a thrilling final.
The Pistol dominated the first half of the mouth-watering showdown between the reigning UK Championship and Masters champions to establish a 7-2 lead.
And despite Trump fighting back to force a deciding frame, Allen dusted himself down to eventually pip his opponent at the post at Cheltenham Racecourse.
The Antrim cueist, who also triumphed at the Northern Ireland Open in October, became only the 10th player to win three ranking events in the same season, while he subsequently climbed to a career high third in the world rankings.
“It’s not often I go; I feel like I’m pretty good under pressure, but I was completely gone there,” Allen told ITV. “[Judd] just put me under all sorts of pressure tonight, and I absolutely fell over the line there.
“It would’ve been absolutely heart-breaking to be 7-2 up, but it’s just one of those things.
“Judd’s a great competitor. From 7-2 behind, he never gave up. He made a couple of breaks as well and started to look so comfortable out there. I’m very proud that I got over the line, but I’ve felt better!
“I’ve really struggled most of the week. I probably played my best stuff in the early part of that final to go 7-2 in front; that’s probably the only time this week that I’ve felt comfortable.
“As long as I keep getting to the business end of tournaments when I’m not at my best, I feel like I’ll do damage whenever my best comes.
“I think Judd’s a great example of that. He said himself last week at the Masters, he wasn’t at his best and won with his B game. That’s what great champions do and that’s what I want to be.”
After the opening four frames were shared with neither player able to truly settle into their rhythm, Allen then won the next four with runs of 88, 63 and 77 opening a commanding 6-2 advantage at the conclusion of the afternoon session.
The Pistol made it six successive frames as he came out firing in the evening with 88.
Trump responded with back-to-back centuries of 140 and 108 to close the gap, but Allen moved 8-4 ahead with a stunning 141 total clearance – the highest break of the tournament.
The Ace hit back with runs of 51, 40 and 87 for 8-6. A thumping red then paved the way to halving the deficit before a contribution of 58 – aided by a monstrous fluke – saw him level the match.
Allen stopped the rot to move to the brink of glory, but his opponent produced a timely 76 to ensure the gripping contest went the distance.
With the pressure intensified, both players saw early opportunities to slip away in the decider. A poor miss on the red by Allen appeared to hand Trump the initiative.
However, the Ace missed a relatively straightforward yellow after appearing to focus too much on positioning, and the relieved Northern Irishman held himself together with 52 to stumble over the line.
“It was disappointing [to miss the yellow] because I didn’t feel that nervous,” Trump told ITV. “I just took my eye off it; it was a bit too easy where the balls were.
“I had a chance before that on the green as well; I had my chances in the last frame. I was just trying to make a fight of it and give the crowd something to cheer about.
“Mark was very solid all day and he put himself in that position where he could have a few chances to get over the line. He blew me away to go 7-2 up.”
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