Stephen Gallacher (Getty Images)
Stephen Gallacher ended his nine-year wait for a second European Tour title in stunning fashion with victory at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The Scot holed his approach to the par four 16th for his fifth eagle of the week to finally shake off the obdurate challenge of Richard Sterne.
A one under par 71 gave Gallacher a 22 under par winning total and three shot victory margin; but that barely told the story of a remarkable final round.
Three clear overnight, Sterne wiped out the former European Amateur Champion’s advantage within two holes, before the pair leapfrogged each other repeatedly until Gallacher holed a 110 yard wedge to the 16th.
“I’m obviously delighted,” said the 38 year old, whose only previous European Tour title in 404 starts came back in 2004 at St Andrews. “It’s taken a long time but it’s sweeter now. I’m maturing with age hopefully!
“I’ve holed four shots this week, but you’ve got to do that these days to win – you need that little bit of magic.”
Gallacher three-putted the first in the windy conditions and then bogeyed the second as well after pushing his driving into the trees and missing from six feet.
As he did that, playing partner Sterne chipped to two feet for a birdie.
Gallacher matched Sterne's birdie on the par five third, but three-putted once more at the eighth to fall one behind.
He produced a near-miracle recovery from the trees down the ninth, the ball finishing only two feet from the flag, but after a birdie there brought him back level he pulled his drive into a bush on the long tenth.
After a penalty drop it was a fine effort to salvage a par with a 15 foot putt, but Sterne got up and down from sand to nose ahead again.
There was another change at the short 11th and it was Sterne failing to get up and down from just right of the green.
Gallacher drove into the left-hand trees on the 12th - the same hole where his ball stuck in the branches on Friday - but ran into the clear and while he saved par Sterne, right off the tee and unable to make the green, had his second successive bogey.
Gallacher was back in front as a result, but in the ninth change of the day between them Sterne two-putted the long 13th for birdie.
The tournament swung massively Gallacher's way as Sterne three-putted the 15th and then saw his playing partner hole out from the rough from 110 yards at the 16th.
It was his fifth eagle of the week - the first came when he sank a seven iron at the sixth on day one - and when Sterne three-putted again the gap was suddenly four.
Sterne birdied the 17th, but his second to the par five last bounced off the hospitality suite and stopped on rocks next to the lake, from where he did well to salvage par.
Gallacher now looks set to climb into the top 60 of the Official World Golf Ranking in time for the WGC-Accenture Match Play, and has a great chance to move into the top 50 in time for a Masters Tournament debut at Augusta National.
“It’s the only Major I’ve never played,” he said. “I sit and watch it in the house with the kids every year and obviously it would be a dream to play there.
“My plan at the start of the year is to try and get into the top 50 to try and make The Ryder Cup [at Gleneagles in 2014].
Chile's Felipe Aguilar and Dane Thorbjørn Olesen tied for third and England's Lee Westwood joint fourth after hitting his second shot into the water on the par five last.
Sterne was understandably upset at missing out on victory, but his week was full of positives as he matched his best performance since returning from a back injury that wiped out most of his 2010 and 2011 campaigns.
“Second place is obviously pretty good,” he said, “but when you’re tied for the lead and there’s one shot in it here and there. Everything swung around on 16 really - that took the wind out of my sails.
“I gave it as good a run as I could, I’m not too disappointed.”