By Mark Staniforth, PA
Ronnie O’Sullivan is closing in on his eighth snooker world final after winning five of the eight frames in the penultimate session of his last-four clash against John Higgins at the Crucible.
Resuming 10-6 in front after clinching a thrilling last frame on Friday night on a re-spotted black, the 46-year-old secured a 15-9 advantage to leave him requiring just two more frames on Saturday evening to progress.
Despite firing three centuries, O’Sullivan was clinical rather than vintage as he mopped up after a succession of Higgins mistakes, the Scot showing his frustration by slamming his cue into the floor when he let his opponent in early in the 22nd frame.
Higgins had appeared set to show no ill effects from the Friday night drama as he took the essential opening frame of the morning, but a break of 82 by O’Sullivan swiftly re-established his four-frame advantage at 11-8.
The Scot clawed back again before the pair swapped tons, O’Sullivan compiling a 101 and Higgins responding on the other side of the mid-session interval with a 103 to haul back to 12-9.
Higgins fluffed a simple red to the middle in the next frame, ending a promising break of 16 and letting in O’Sullivan to fire a devastating 121 – the 100th century of this year’s tournament – to emphatically assert command.
It was O’Sullivan’s turn to run aground on 50 in the next, but once again Higgins failed to fully capitalise, a poor positional shot leading to a spell of safety play from which O’Sullivan emerged with a comfortable clearance to move five in front at 14-9.
Higgins’ dismal session was summed up in the final frame when O’Sullivan pounced on a loose break-off shot to sink a long red and proceed to roll in his 12th century of the tournament – a faultless 134 – and surely make the concluding evening session a formality.