The world number three enjoyed a commanding 6-1 lead after the opening session but Selby managed to put his Australian opponent under renewed pressure to narrow the gap.
However, Robertson held on in the evening session and took the title thanks to a prolonged and tense 16th frame.
Session one was scheduled for nine frames in the best-of-19 conclusion to the final ranking event before the World Championships, but the drawn-out nature of the battle between the incoming new world number one and the Australian led to only seven being played.
It is the second straight year the China Open final had been forced to alter plans due to time constraints: Peter Ebdon’s 10-9 drawn-out win over Stephen Maguire in 2012 squeezed only six frames into the first session, leaving another 13 to be played to a finish.
A break of 58 helped Selby shut out his opponent to take the opener, but Robertson took the lead with runs to 50 and 91 and raced ahead.
At 6-1 in front, though, he was pegged back as breaks of 81, 125 and 66 saw Selby move to within two frames of his opponent.
Robertson rallied to take the next three frames, the first with a break of 110, and although breaks of 116 and 63 saw Selby respond once again, the Australian finished with an 80-39 victory in the 16th frame to take the title.
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