Four days of hard-fought snooker eventually caught up with Neil Robertson after slipping out of this year’s Betfred World Championship.
The Australian went down 13-7 in the Crucible quarter-finals having trailed 5-0 to three-time world champion Mark Selby, despite barely putting a foot wrong in the match.
But Robertson – a man who thrives on making big breaks – was outdone by the battle of his opponent Selby, with their hour-long first frame setting the tone for a bruising encounter in Sheffield.
Quick snooker was replaced by a war of attrition in the 25-frame match, an area of his game that Robertson knows is a source of potential improvement.
"You've got to work out how not to be broken down. In football, when a team puts ten men behind the ball and camps in the box, you need to find answers for that,” he said.
"Mark's safety was brilliant. Playing Barry [Hawkins] and Mark over the four days, I've probably played 35 frame-winning safety shots against most players in the world, but those two kept finding escapes, kept playing unbelievable safety shots in return, and that's tough over four days.
"Against Barry, I was right on the line in terms of shot selection and being able to score freely.
"Against Mark, I fell below that line - I got bogged down too much and couldn't get out of it.
"You keep losing those 50-50 frames and when it adds up like that, it's tough to turn a match round like that.”
Defeat at the Crucible brought the curtain down on Robertson’s extended season, with the 2010 world champion still to enjoy success since tasting victory a decade ago.
But with his position at No.2 in the world rankings backed up by three tournament victories this season, it’s a campaign that he certainly won’t be disappointed by.
Now the challenge is to regain his crown in Sheffield over the coming years – though a bit of luck in the draw certainly wouldn’t go amiss for the 38-year-old.
"I got to the quarter-finals the past two years and it's taken the two greatest match players of all time to beat me,” added Robertson.
"I felt very confident against anyone else in the draw, you can go blow for blow. But against tight players, who make it really difficult, you need to get through that.
"It's a real hard slog of snooker. I'm really happy with how I played, just the application was wrong.
"The season has been unbelievable, I reached four major finals and won three of them, I'm currently No.2 in the world so it's brilliant.
"The past six months have been tough on everyone, not just snooker players, so I was just really happy to play in the tournament this year.”
Live snooker returns to Eurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship from 31st July – 16th August with analysis from Jimmy White.