We are three quarters of the way through the 2021 Betfred World Snooker Championship final – and what a final it’s been!

What a tournament it’s been. We’ve had everything from re-racks to quirky breaks off four cushions during a record-breaking 17 days here at the iconic Crucible Theatre.

But we are down to just two – and a determined Mark Selby (above, left) holds a healthy 14-11 lead heading into tonight’s final session as he bids to cement his name among the greats of the game.

But don’t discount Shaun Murphy (pictured above, right). The Magician conjured up a magical comeback when he recovered from 10-6 behind to beat Matthew Stevens when he won the 2005 world title as a rank 150/1 outsider. Murphy’s sensational spell of snooker over those 17 days remains the last time a qualifier conquered the Crucible.

But this final holds so much more significance than Selby becoming a four-time winner, or Murphy ending a painful 16-year wait for a second world title.

There was a lot of emotion inside that famous theatre this afternoon when Rob Walker did what he does best and got the Crucible crowd pumping.

It was a special moment as both Murphy and Selby were introduced to a roaring capacity crowd – the first time in the UK for over a year. The atmosphere was electric and I had goosebumps watching it.

It’s been a tough year for everybody and seeing a non socially-distanced crowd at one of sport’s greatest occasions was a long-overdue sight to behold. We just hope it’s the first of many, ahead of a bumper summer of sport!

On the table, play was laboured on the opening day as Selby clawed his way back from 6-4 down to lead 10-7 overnight. At one stage there were more re-racks in this tense final than centuries – and everyone knows I love a re-rack!!!

Selby sunk the first century of the match in the 21st frame before Murphy hit one of his own two frames later. That took the record-breaking tournament tally to an incredible 105 – smashing the 2019 benchmark of 100!

Here at Betfred we donated £25,000 to World Snooker’s amazing partner charity Jessie May when Mark Williams hit the 80th ton of the event – and that feels a long time ago!

Jessie May provide hospice care for terminally-ill children and we are delighted to be associated with such a worthy cause, which has struggled to raise much-needed funds during the pandemic.

Good luck to both players tonight as we crown this year’s Betfred World Snooker champion!

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Mark Pearson