Ball Run Bingham’s Cinderella story culminates in Crucible crown

During almost 20 years as a pro, Stuart Bingham has gone beyond the last 16 of the World Snooker Championship just twice, and on the second occasion he became Crucible king, beating Shaun Murphy 18-15.

No player to pick up a cue could have had a harder route to fairy tale glory, with the 35-year-old Essex potter, nicknamed “Ball Run”, having to overcome three former champions on the road to his own global crown.

An underdog in the quarters against five-time winner Ronnie O’Sullivan, Bingham defied the odds. In the semis, snooker’s crown prince Judd Trump took him to a decider, but he came through that already in uncharted territory.

In facing Masters champion and 2005 Crucible winner Murphy, Ball Run was yet again an outsider, and traded blows with “the Magician” throughout the early stages of an epic final.

Behind 3-1 early on, Bingham levelled at the end of the first session at 4-4, before then losing four on the spin. How did he respond? By making a record-breaking century for most tons in a single Crucible tournament.

During the latter part of that second session, Ball Run kept Murphy off the table for half an hour, winning in one visit time and again, but the Magician guaranteed himself a lead going into the final day with a 76 break.

Trailing 9-8 overnight, Bingham then overtook Murphy, almost making a maximum in the process. On four occasions, he opened up three-frame gaps (12-9, 13-10 14-11 and 15-12) only for the Magician’s mercurial talent to battle back and level the scores.

Frame 31, a marathon 64-minute affair, proved pivotal in determining Ball Run’s destiny. A tense, tactical and drawn-out duel was not in keeping with the rest of this contest, which offered such high quality baize play, but Bingham took it, edging lengthy safety exchanges.

Bold Murphy moves had no reward thereafter, who was magnanimous in defeat, and Ball Run was cheered home by a Crucible crowd swept along by the emotion of this feel good story.

Bingham moves up to world number two in the new rankings, and is not even fancied at 25/1 with Coral to defend his crown in Sheffield next season, but that hardly matters now. His against all odds victory is an inspiration to all sports fans and tangible evidence of the old adage that hard work being its own reward.