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  Monday, 12 February, 2001, 04:48 GMT
Thrilling finish heralds new star
Paul Hunter
Hunter's four centuries lit up the Wembley final
BBC Sport's Clive Everton reflects on a fantastic B&H Masters triumph for Paul Hunter.

Paul Hunter's dramatic 10-9 victory over Fergal O'Brien in the final of the B&H masters featured an astonishing spell of four centuries in six frames from the 22-year-old Yorkshireman in one of the most remarkable final sessions in the 26-year-history of the event.

It was right up there with Dennis Taylor's 1987 recovery from three down with four to play to beat Alex Higgins; with Stephen Hendry's comeback from 0-7 and 2-8 to beat Mike Hallett 9-8; and with the 10-9 tie-break black victory for Mark Williams over Hendry in 1998.

The afternoon session hardly suggested the quality or drama which was to follow in the evening.

Resuming 6-2 down, Hunter won two of the first three frames of the evening before making consecutive centuries, 129 and 101, to reduce this to 7-6.

O'Brien was striving to keep at bay one of the worst feelings a snooker player can experiecnce - being virtually poweless to prevent a big lead being speedily eroded.

Hunter is this kind of inspirational player. In December's China Open, he won two consecutive 5-0s by a combined aggregate of 902-80.

He sat out 88 from O'Brien, creditably keeping his nerve in the face of his opponent's excellence but a break of 75 and back-to-back total clearances of 136 and 102 left him one up with two to play at 9-8.

The 136 was bad news for Jimmy White. It equalled his 136 early in the tournament and forced him to share the 20,000 highest break prize.

Excruciatingly tense

Hunter seemed to be closing in on the title when he led 44-0 in the next frame, thus completing a run of 372 unanswered points.

"I thought he'd win 10-8 the way he was playing," the 28-year-old Dubliner admitted.

But O'Brien, one of the most tenacious characters snooker has ever known, recovered to win it on the pink and level at 9-9.

The 46-minute decider was excruciatingly tense. Hunter twice missed long pots on the last red and yellow, either of which would have left O'Brien needing a snooker.

Star name

The Irishman missed two easier chances as the pressure became more than he could bear after 18 hours table time during the tournament.

Finally, it was Hunter who got home on the colours to secure the 175,000 first prize which he proposes to put towards a new house - with a swimming pool.

The title though is worth more than money. It establishes Hunter as one of snooker's star names.

For O'Brien, the 88,000 second prize was the best pay day of his career. But his failure to clinch his chance for glory in the deciding frame will not be easy to get over.

Such chances do not come along that often.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Clive Everton
"One of the most remarkable final sessions in the history of the Masters"
Paul Hunter
"I don't think it's sunk in yet"
Fergal O'Brien
"It's not been a bad week"
Benson & Hedges Masters
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See also:

12 Feb 01 | Benson and Hedges Masters
12 Feb 01 | Benson and Hedges Masters
12 Feb 01 | Benson and Hedges Masters
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