MARK Williams believes that a new lean and mean approach to snooker paid dividends in a late-night decider as he ended a 12-year losing streak to Ronnie O’Sullivan in China.

Two-time world champion Williams, 39, set up an International Championship semi-final on Saturday against Mark Allen with a sensational 6-5 victory over the Rocket.

World No22 Williams trailed 3-0 but after winning five frames on the spin saw O’Sullivan level at 5-5 before holding his nerve at the death to complete a famous win.

Williams had lost 16 times in a row to the five-time world champion in ranking tournaments and was understandably delighted to end that miserable sequence in such fine style.

The Welshman, already £30,000 better off in Chengdu, said: “I would have been sick if I had finished my career without beating him again – but we are talking about the best player that ever lived.

“It is a long time, and I have had the 12 years thrown at me so thankfully I don’t have to hear or read that again.

“It is an excellent feeling to have won the match, no question.

“I have been on a fitness regime and lost about two stone – eating better and exercising, hitting the treadmill and the weights.

“And I definitely feel fitter and less tired and lethargic when the matches go like that, late and into a decider. Before I didn’t feel so good – at least I can afford a new wardrobe now.

“And the money might move me up closer to a top-16 spot, we are all thinking about qualifying for the Crucible now with three qualifiers for anyone outside.”

Williams’ last title came three and a half years ago at the German Masters but he added: “I have beaten the best, so why not the title now?”

World No4 O’Sullivan admitted that the long winning run had been in his head during the match.

He said: “A lot had been made of the 12 years, I had obviously had a very good run against Mark.

“And it’s one of them, when you talk about something like that you have it in your head that maybe it’s your turn to lose a game.

“I struggled with my concentration out there. In the first three or four frames Mark was so bad, and he would say it too, we dragged each other down.

“But at the start I just found it hard to focus, even being 3-0 up. Then at 5-3 down I felt the best I felt in the whole match and knew I had to go out there and make something happen.

“But especially after the interval Mark played very well to win the five frames in a row, and I had my chance in the decider so it is very disappointing to lose.”

Photograph by Monique Limbos