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Mark Williams who last won a ranking title in 2011, came back from the brink of defeat to beat Chinese sensation Yan Bingtao in the final of Northern Ireland Open.

The 9-8 victory for the Welshman represented a comeback of sorts to his professional career who has hinted at retirement in the last year, before employing the services of SightRight coaching, to bring his game back to its best.

The tournament, part of the home nations series, gives the opportunity for someone to win all 4; English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh and land a £1 million bonus in the process. Coming into Belfast, it was Ronnie O’ Sullivan’s chance, having won in Barnsley last month, but he was beaten by Williams semi-final opponent Elliot Sessor.

Williams, who’s last win on UK soil was the 2003 LG Grand Prix, started slowly against Bingtao, who at 17 years, would’ve been the youngest ever winner of a world ranking event, ousting Ronnie O’Sullivan who was the same age when winning the 1993 UK Championship.

A fragmented first session see the Chinese player grab a 5-3 lead over the former World Champion with a 136 break. The final session was full of drama, as Williams held on to his opponents lead to trail by one frame at 7-6 at the break with a 104.

Williams, chasing his 19th career title, finally got level at 7-7, before Yan took the 15th frame to close in on an historical win. But the Welshman, who didn’t even know whether he play in the final, due to his wife Joanne being ill, got the all clear to stay in Belfast, and summoned all his experience to win the last 2 frames and become a champion again.

Williams, who jokingly, told Eurosport TV afterwards “I’ll be glad to be retired by the time he’s (Bingtao) 25 years of age,” won his first title since the German Masters, and heads to the UK Championship, the second biggest ranking tournament of the season, full of confidence.

The UK Championship is next up on the tour, and will be broadcast on BBC TV and Eurosport live from the Barbican in York, from Saturday.

For tickets go to



Snooker: Williams back in the winners’ circle again
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