Mark Selby made the first maximum break in a World Snooker Championship final as he reeled off the final three frames of an exhilarating opening day to trail Belgium’s Luca Brecel 9-8 overnight at the Crucible.
Forty years after Cliff Thorburn compiled the first 147 in the tournament, four-time champion Selby polished off the 15th to add his name to the list of history-makers at the famous venue.
Selby’s maximum earned him a share of the £40,000 tournament highest break prize with Kyren Wilson, who also made a 147 in his first-round win over Ryan Day.
His achievement capped an absorbing first two sessions in which Brecel threatened to pot his way into a significant lead only for the 39-year-old to show all of his renowned tenacity to drag himself back into contention ahead of Monday’s conclusion.
Twice previously in finals, against Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins, Selby has trailed heavily only to roar back and clinch victory and he is now a heavy favourite to finish the job against Brecel, who before this year had not won a match in five visits to the Crucible.
Having carved a reputation as a comeback king after his wins over O’Sullivan and Si Jiahui, the Belgian found himself in uncharted territory as a front-runner after blazing a trail with some epic long pots to take the first session 6-2.
In a thrilling start to the evening session, Selby summoned a 134 total clearance only for Brecel to respond with a high-octane 99, including a series of trick-shots on the colours, to immediately restore his four-frame advantage.
But Brecel’s potting prowess was matched by a growing tendency to miss easy balls, and after potting a series of impressive long shots in the next he missed a comparatively easy red, allowing Selby to post a break of 96 to narrow the deficit to 7-4.
It was classic Selby territory, however, and he punished a careless Brecel split with a break of 61 before summoning his historic maximum, completed with the minimum of fuss after plucking the final problematic red away from the side cushion.
Referee Brendan Moore, officiating in his third and last Crucible final before retirement, was the first to congratulate Selby, who was also embraced warmly by a smiling Brecel.
The Belgian looked set to extend his overnight advantage when he went 48 points clear in the final frame of the evening but Selby typically managed to refocus and take the frame to leave a thrilling 2023 final on a knife-edge.