Peter Ebdon's dream of regaining his world title is very much alive after a badly needed confidence boost at the Citywest Irish Masters in Dublin last night.
The 33-year-old world number seven defeated surprise finalist Mark King 10-7 to take the Ł48,000 first prize.
But with the Embassy World Championship at Sheffield just three weeks away Ebdon is running into form exactly at the right time.
And with top stars such as Mark Williams, Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Matthew Stevens off their 'A' game, Ebdon is looking good for the crown he last wore in 2002.
However, the Wellingborough-based professional admits there is still work to be done before he arrives at the Crucible Theatre.
'I have got a lot of positives to take away from this tournament,' said Ebdon, who won five of the last seven frames after birthday boy King levelled the match at 5-5.
'I have got a lot to improve on before I get to Sheffield. However, I am heading in the right direction,' he said after the sixth world ranking title of his career.
'It is just nice to be enjoying the game again. Over the last two years since winning at Sheffield I have not worked hard enough and I have got what I deserved.
'But I have been putting that right lately and it seems to be paying off.'
Ebdon's victory - nine years after his last Irish Masters triumph - also arrests his slide down the rankings.
'I would love to stay in the top eight,' he added. 'The way I have been playing I would be lucky to stay in the top 16.
'But I see myself as a top-eight player and I am on the right road again.'
For King, it was one game too many. He defeated Hendry, Jimmy White, Graeme Dott and Ken Doherty to reach the final but found Ebdon a different proposition.
However, the Romford left-hander did not leave Dublin empty handed. He picked up Ł24,000 and his 10th-frame break of 138 clinched him a Ł5,000 bonus.
And after his personal traumas of the last 12 months, when his mother has been jailed for murder, King can finally focus on a positive.
'I am just looking forward to playing again,' he said. 'I have not played my best snooker but I have stuck in and played some solid snooker.
'I gave it my best shot but it was not good enough. I lost a couple of the close frames that I had not been doing all week.
'I am not that bothered about my birthday but it will be good to get home and see the wife and kids.'
Ebdon's Irish victory means the first seven tournaments of the season have all been won by different players.
The circuit now moves on to the Daily Record Players Championship - a last test before the world championship.
Wed, 07 May 2014 10:36:19