Northern Ireland Open: Mark King ends 25-year wait for ranking title

Mark King
Mark King had not played in a ranking final since the 2004 Irish Masters

Mark King ended a 25-year wait for a ranking title as he edged out fellow Englishman Barry Hawkins 9-8 in a thrilling Northern Ireland Open final.

Hawkins, 37, looked in control at 5-1 ahead, only for King, 42, to win six straight frames in Belfast.

2013 World Championship finalist Hawkins levelled at 7-7 and then 8-8 after a re-spotted black in an unbelievably tense 16th frame.

However, a break of 42 helped King clinch victory amid emotional scenes.

World number 35 King was beaten by Stephen Hendry in the 1997 Welsh Open decider and his only other ranking final came at the 2004 Irish Masters when he was edged out by Peter Ebdon.

King lifts Alex Higgins Trophy

Essex's King picked up the £70,000 first prize and the inaugural Alex Higgins Trophy in the first staging of the tournament at the Titanic Exhibition Centre.

Before receiving the trophy from Lauren Higgins, the daughter of the late Belfast snooker great, King spoke about his struggles in overcoming a gambling addiction.

"My wife (Sally) has been unbelievable. I used to compulsively gamble and she stuck with me. She has been an absolute rock," King told Eurosport.

King's wife and three children embraced the Romford man after Sunday's final and he spoke of what that moment meant.

"I've been dreaming of that since they (his children) were born and I never thought it would happen."

The 42-year-old also paid tribute to his 83-year-old father Bill, a well known personality in snooker circles, who was unable to travel over for Sunday's final because of illness.

"I'm gutted he couldn't be here. He's spent his last money on me all through the years.

Barry Hawkins won the 2012 Australian Open and 2014 Players Championship
Hawkins was aiming to add to his two previous ranking tournament titles

"Before this competition, he even lent me money to come here because I was skint."

After winning the final two frames of the afternoon session to cut Hawkins' lead to 5-3, King produced breaks of 62, 100, 45 and 54 to move into a 7-5 lead as the Kent man began to struggle badly.

But after the mid-session interval, Hawkins was on course for a maximum in frame 13 before missing his 10th black while on 73 and and another run of 76 then levelled the match.

King moved ahead by winning a scrappy 15th frame before Hawkins won on a re-spotted black after a 62-minute 16th after the Essex man had hit the middle pocket jaws with a double attempt which would have landed the title.

A 42 break gave King an early advantage in the decider and he eventually clinched victory after both players missed straightforward opportunities amid high drama.

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