RONNIE O’Sullivan picked himself up off the canvas just in time against Stuart Bingham on Saturday afternoon to reach the final of the Coral UK Championship.
The 39-year-old O’Sullivan, who made a record 13th career maximum 147 break on Thursday, is bidding for a fifth UK title at York’s Barbican Centre in the tournament where it all started for him – lifting the trophy as a 17-year-old.
And O’Sullivan is in to Sunday’s best-of-19 frame showpiece occasion playing for a first prize of £150,000 – but only after a comeback that few saw coming against Bingham.
The world No9 is the reigning Shanghai Masters champion and had beaten O’Sullivan twice in the previous four years in this tournament.
But from 4-1 up he started to feel the winning line a little too close and could not land the knockout blow.
Bingham wilted and wobbled while O’Sullivan’s level rose, and the world No4 clawed his way back to claim a famous 6-5 victory after starting the week hobbling with a broken ankle.
Appearing to be gliding around the table almost as usual, O’Sullivan also knocked in his 769th career century to leave him six shy of Stephen Hendry’s all-time record.
“To be honest if it had been a boxing match at 4-1 down they would definitely have stopped it, and you’d be talking to Stuart as the winner,” said O’Sullivan.
“He was giving me a good hiding. I couldn’t compete and it was looking like 6-1 all day. He outpotted me, outscored me and outfoxed me.
“I really feel I got away with that one and got lucky – and that has happened a few times this week to be fair.
“I am delighted to have won and be in the final, but sometimes you can mask something with a plaster. The deeper issue for me is why I was being pushed around so easily.
“I don’t want to have to experience that too often, and maybe it is because I choose not to play as match snooker as some of the others and I am not as match sharp.
“I am not playing as consistently well as I was in 2012 and 2013, but I have a never-say-die attitude and can draw on a lot of experience. But you want to be pulling away, not hanging on.”
Bingham was rueful in defeat. “I started thinking about the final at 4-1 ahead, it’s not every day that happens, a chance of getting to the final of the UK Championship. I felt a bit lost,” he said.
“I lost my timing for a while, and from missing a pink at 5-4 up I didn’t really get another good chance and he took the bull by the horns.”
Photograph by Monique Limbos