Following the opening session which saw honours even at 4-4, both players will have been relatively happy, Mark having come back from 3-1 down to come out level while Stuart produced a vital clearance in frame eight to avoid a four-frame losing streak.
When the action resumed however the second session was initially one-way traffic as a visibly tight Bingham struggled to get going while Williams looked serene and swiftly moved three clear at 7-4. To his credit Stuart was able to take the final frame before the mid-session interval to keep himself in the match at 7-5 but Mark duly took the next to leave himself one away from the title at 8-5.
From there however the tide began to turn, a fluked snooker for Stuart pulling one back before he suddenly relaxed and again looked like the fluent break-builder that had defeated the likes of Mark Allen and Shaun Murphy to make it to this final. A swift break reduced the deficit to 8-7 before a further 76 sent us into what would prove a dramatic decider.
As is often the case we saw a cagey start to frame 17, both players keen to keep the cue ball close to the top cushion with the reds being opened up more and more with every shot. The decisive stroke appeared to have been played by the Welshman as he left the cue ball tight on the cushion with no remaining reds safe to roll up to. Stuart was understandably stumped and even turned to the crowd to ask for help. Eventually however he made his mind up and he played a fabulous cross-double into the left-centre pocket to get himself out of trouble and suddenly present himself with a potentially match-winning chance.
There was however to be another twist to the tale as having amassed a sizeable lead, following a pot on a red he cruelly glanced off another to go in-off into the left-centre pocket and give the world number one a lifeline. Surprisingly Mark could not take advantage, missing one to the left-centre before Stuart too missed a chance when 55-9 ahead.
The was then to be a final chance for Williams but having faltered with a long range red to the yellow pocket, found himself needing a snooker if he was to win the match. The final twist was to come though as attempting to lay a snooker on the green behind the brown, Mark suffered a kick (not for the first time this week), which left the way clear for Stuart to seal glory.
The 48th player to win a ranking title and for my money at 35 the oldest to do so since Doug Mountjoy back in 1988, Stuart will justifiably be delighted with what has been surely the best week in his 16-year snooker career. Following his needle with Mark Allen earlier in the week I think it is safe to say that Stuart has answered any questions as to his ‘bottle’ or otherwise and has now given himself a great chance of being in the top 16 at the time of the next seedings revision in October.
I have also heard from Stuart’s coach who is understandably thrilled and commented: “Awesome Awesome Awesome :):):)” which probably sums up the mood in the Bingham camp rather appropriately!
For Mark it will be a disappointing defeat, reminiscent of that to John Higgins back at the UK Championship but in all honesty he did not do a great deal wrong, perhaps missing a few more balls later on as Stuart shut him out but he hardly threw it away, Bingham won it. Still, he has got some more vital ranking points under his belt and generally speaking can be happy with his work out there in Aus this week.
Indeed it has been a great tournament as a whole with good crowd levels and some excellent action on the baize between the world’s best players. With a three-year contract there is no doubt that the event will be back next season and hopefully it was continue to grow into its role as the season’s new curtain-raiser.
A week off now but the snooker will soon return in August with the Shanghai Masters qualifiers ahead of a string of PTC events.