Stephen Maguire admitted he lost to the better man as his remarkable run towards the Betway UK Championship title fell just short at the hands of a sensational Ding Junhui.

The 38-year-old – who won the second of five ranking titles at the tournament back in 2004 – was bidding for his first trophy since lifting the Welsh Open crown six years ago, but he ultimately fell 10-6 to former world No.1 Ding in a match bursting with quality.

Despite having struggled with a fractured ankle throughout the competition, Maguire had signalled his intent for overall victory with a 6-0 whitewashing of world No.7 Mark Allen in the semi-finals.

But having been comfortably beaten by his Chinese rival in the final, Maguire conceded his performance simply didn’t match that of his opponent, who led from the start and notched four tons en route to his third UK Championship triumph.

“I can’t make one single excuse – not one at all,” Maguire said. “I went down fighting and I tried to go hell for leather, but it’s difficult when he’s in such a scoring mood.

“I’d already grabbed him when we both went to the toilet during a frame interval and reminded him he was playing snooker, not darts!

“The way he finished off was just fantastic and I have to take my hat off to him. I got it to 8-6 and I just wanted to get in the balls because I thought I had a chance, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

“I had nerves out there but I was a bit sloppy as well. I didn’t settle and I think I actually lost the game in the first four frames, which is to his credit. He was relentless at times.”

Despite ultimately tasting defeat, Maguire was quick to highlight the positives of his first run to the final of a Triple Crown event for 12 years, and with some of the scintillating snooker he produced throughout the tournament.

Having only progressed beyond the second round of a ranking tournament once this season prior to the UK Championship, he is hopeful he can carry his positive form into the rest of the campaign, including at the Masters in the New Year.

He said: “If you’d told me two weeks ago that I was going to get to the final of the UK Championship I would’ve bitten your hand off. With the way I was playing in ranking events, I really can’t complain.

“I’ve competed here and I played brilliantly in the semi-final against someone I consider to be a top-five player.

“I hope I’ve maybe turned a corner, but now I have to push on and make sure it’s not another 12 years before I get to another major final!”

The UK Championship was live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with analysis from Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White.