John Higgins came from behind to beat 21-year-old sensation Judd Trump 18-15 and clinch his fourth World Championship crown at the Crucible.
The 35-year-old Scot was outplayed on the first day as Trump fired in two centuries to build a 10-7 lead.
Breaks of 104 and 99 put Trump 12-9 up, but a costly missed blue saw Higgins pounce and take five straight frames.
Trump made it 14-14 and trailed 16-15 but Higgins took the next and sealed it with a doubled pink and superb black.
It was a stunning finale from Higgins, whose career looked in jeopardy a year ago, as he sealed victory in a match which boasted high-class snooker throughout the four sessions.
Higgins, 'The Wizard of Wishaw', has been far from his best during the tournament but his sheer grit and tactical nous proved enough to thwart the potting talent of the spiky-haired Trump.
Twelve months ago, on the morning of the 2010 final, the Scot found himself the subject of fixing allegations after a tabloid newspaper sting. He was later cleared of deliberately throwing frames.
After returning in November from a six-month ban for not reporting the illegal approach made to him, Higgins has won five tournaments including three ranking events - the UK Championship, the Welsh Open and now the World Championship.
"It has been amazing, an unbelievable 12 months but it has been great," said a tearful Higgins - who suffered the death of his father in February - as he embraced his wife and three children at the end.
"It was really tough match-play. I knew I had to come into the third session [on Monday afternoon] and play great, and I think I did that to get back into the match and make Judd think a little bit.
"He was the better player. He was playing a brand of snooker I have never seen before in my life. It was unbelievable the amount of long shots he was potting, it was incredible. It was great to watch - we have got the new sensation of the game."
Higgins' 24th ranking title, which earned him a winners' cheque of £250,000, added to his Crucible triumphs of 1998, 2007 and 2009.
He is out on his own on four world titles, behind Stephen Hendry (seven), Steve Davis (six) and Ray Reardon (six) in the modern era.
But if his experience proved crucial in the final analysis, there is no doubt snooker has found a new star in Trump, whose confidence after winning his first ranking title at the China Open last month took him all the way to the final.
"I came here and was not expected to do that well so to get to the final is a good achievement," said Trump, who picked up £125,000 as runner-up and has rocketed up to number nine in the world rankings.
"Obviously I would have liked to have won but John was the better player on the day and played the better snooker over the two days and I think he is a deserving winner.
"But the support I have received has been unbelievable. From the start 17 days ago I was no-one really but every game it has been building and building, and the fan base I have created is unbelievable.
"It wasn't enough this time but I will come back next year."
The opening session of the final finished 4-4, but Trump took the last three frames of Sunday's second session to lead 10-7 overnight.
His third century of the final - the youngster's 10th of the championship - and a break of 99 helped him extend that to 12-9 on Monday afternoon.
He might have made it 13-9, but in a pivotal moment of the final, Trump missed a tricky blue along the rails leading 55-47 and Higgins cleared the remaining three colours to win the frame on the black.
That was the cue for a dramatic change of momentum, as the five-time finalist won the last four frames of the session.
A break of 93 reduced his deficit to one, and a brilliant 113 - his first century of the match, and his ninth of the championship - brought the scores level.
After another Trump miss in the 25th frame, a charged-up Higgins compiled 57 to take the lead at 13-12 for the first time since the end of the fifth frame.
After a rapturous reception greeted the two protagonists on their return to the arena for the final session - "I've never experienced anything like that before, it was 100 times better than anything," said Higgins - a run of 62 saw him secure his fifth frame in a row.
But Trump battled back to level it at 14-14 and was 51 points to the good in the next only to see Higgins snatch the frame on the pink.
The youngster had a chance to get back on level terms only to leave a missed brown over a pocket, but a 70 break in the 31st frame saw him stay in touch at 16-15.
Both players had chances in the next frame before Higgins finally took it on the pink to move within one of victory.
Trump appeared set to extend the match after building a 60-point lead in the 33rd frame, but Higgins got the snooker he needed before finishing in style - an audacious double on the pink and a tremendous black signalling his third title in five years and an end to the drama.