Grigor Dimitrov beat David Goffin at ATP World Tour Finals
Dimitrov had beaten Goffin earlier in the week for the loss of just two games and came in as a heavy favourite, with Bulgarian flags far outnumbering Belgian ones in the arena to cast his opponent as a clear underdog.
However, Goffin had beaten Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on his way to the final and was brimming with confidence.
The pair shared the first two sets but Goffin was shouted at during his service motion as the 17,000-strong crowd were whipped up into a frenzy by the excitement and he was broken in the same game.
It happened again as Goffin served to stay in the match and while he produced a supremely gutsy hold, saving three match points, Dimitrov served it out one game later to seal an emotional victory that threw him to the ground face first.
Dimitrov had already wrapped up a highest-ever finish in the world rankings, the “best of the rest” spot at No 3 behind Federer and Nadal.
The Bulgarian had smiled genuinely when asked the night before the final if he had ever believed that goal was achievable.
It’s great. What can I say?
“It’s great. What can I say?” he said.
“It’s wonderful, a wonderful reward.”
But perhaps not as wonderful as the £1.9million payday winning the ATP World Tour Finals represents.
Both players admitted to suffering from nerves during previous matches, a testament perhaps to the fact that this is the first ever final at this tournament featuring two players without a Grand Slam final appearance.
It told too, with the first three games all going against serve. But two of them went the way of Goffin, who found his range quickly, especially off second serve, putting pressure on the Bulgarian who had shown a tendency to double-fault at big moments all week.
However, Goffin got himself in trouble with a wayward second serve five games later, serve-and-volleying his way out of 0-30 only to double-fault and bring up a break point he could not save as he had nine times against Federer.
The parity seemed to inspire Dimitrov to lift his level and the crowd too, who lifted the roof when he spun a forehand across Goffin to make it 5-4.
And whether it was the crowd or the occasion, the pressure got to Goffin. Serving to stay in the set at 5-6, he had already saved four set points before double-faulting for a third time to present a critical fifth.
Somehow, irrespective of who won it, the presence of a set on the board seemed to settle both players. The start of the second set was the polar opposite of the beginning of the first, as both found quick holds and cheap points.
But perhaps inevitably, it was the double-faults that undid Dimitrov. Two in a row took him to 15-30 and two points later, a whipping forehand gave him a break.
If there were nerves early in the match, there were none when Goffin came to serve for the second set, holding to love with a quietly determined fist-pump.
But the turning point in the deciding set, where Goffin has won 22 times out of 27, came through no fault of either player. A shout from the crowd just as Goffin was about to serve at 2-3 clearly threw him off his rhythm and five minutes later, he had dropped his serve at perhaps the most important moment of his career.
He wasn’t finished though. Despite another untimely shout in the motion of his first serve at 2-5 and slipping to 0-40, the scrappy Belgian saved three straight match points, held his serve and threw his arms in the air, goading the crowd into further noise.
The response was electrifying and while Dimitrov served out, no-one left east London doubting the nerve of Goffin, who will have to do it all again next week in front of a French crowd in the Davis Cup final.
Sadly, few occasions could better have prepared him for it.