DEFENDING CHAMPION Ronnie O’Sullivan established a 7-2 first session lead over Robin Hull in their opening round match at the Dafabet World Championship, leaving him just three frames from victory when they return to the Crucible Theatre on Saturday night.

O’Sullivan, seeking a sixth world title, looked sharp and focused and won a big fifth frame after needing a snooker on the green.

The Rocket won a close first frame before making his 132nd Crucible century with a 124 total clearance in the second. O’Sullivan then piled on the misery for the Finn with a run of 69 from Hull’s missed pink in the third.

Hull, making his second Crucible appearance 12 years after his first, having survived four qualifying rounds in Sheffield last week, took advantage in the fourth when O’Sullivan failed to successfully execute a plant. Hull made a run of 102, his first ever Crucible century, to get on the scoreboard and was in control of the scrappy fifth, only for O’Sullivan to lay the snooker he needed on the green before later clearing for 4-1.

An 81 in the sixth made it 5-1 before Hull, helped by an early 60, secured the seventh. O’Sullivan, though, was too strong overall and eased to a 7-2 halfway advantage with further efforts of 60 and 90.

On the other table, Stuart Bingham opened a 5-4 lead over Ken Doherty, who at 44 is the oldest player at the Crucible this year.

Bingham won the lengthy opener, made an 85 break in the second and cut the black into the green pocket from distance to lead 3-0. He had a chance to make it 4-0 when he trailed 0-66 with 67 on but was forced to take one pink and later lost position on the yellow.

Doherty, the 1997 champion and losing finalist in 1998 and 2003, eventually claimed the frame on the black, made a 91 break in the seventh frame and won the last of the session on the colours to remain in touch overnight.

The match will resume on Sunday morning with the winner to face John Higgins or Alan McManus in the second round.


Photographs by Monique Limbos.