RONNIE O’SULLIVAN produced a grandstand finish to remain on track for a third successive world title with a dramatic 13-11 second round victory over Joe Perry at the Crucible on Saturday.
O’Sullivan trailed 9-7 coming into the final session and 11-9 at the interval after Perry made a fine 48 clearance in frame 20, potting the yellow using the rest to obtain perfect position on the green.
The five times world champion won the next in two scoring visits and pounced in frame 22 when Perry missed a red to the yellow pocket, O’Sullivan making 52 to level at 11-11.
And O’Sullivan saved his best for last, finishing off with successive centuries of 124 and 113 to reach the quarter-finals of the World Championship for the 16th time in 22 Crucible appearances.
He said: “I just stayed determined right to the end. I was never going to give in. It was hard because I was coming from behind all the time and he was playing well. Every time I got close he’d pull away. I was missing a few shots and he got on top of me so I had to draw on all my experience. I had to use that as my ace card and stick in until something happened.
“The fans certainly got their money’s worth. It was a more exciting match than any of the finals I’ve had. It was one of the most exciting matches I’ve ever had at the Crucible and Joe played his part in a great match.
“That’s the closest I’ve been to going out for quite a while. You realise you’re in control of most matches but I wasn’t in that one. I knew I could only win it if it went close because he was playing too well. I knew I had to be patient and make him earn it.
“This is a special place. Ding was the form player but it takes a special kind of temperament here. It either brings out the best in you or the worst. Some players come here and play their game and others drop their level a little bit. It’s about who can handle the venue better.
“I got more out of winning that match than my first world title because I was in there competing, playing some lovely shots not everyone can play. It’s the process I’m enjoying, the doing it. It’s about finding my game. If I can I’m OK, if not I’m a miserable bastard.”
O’Sullivan called a foul on himself in the second frame of the morning, believing he had jumped over the brown in attempting to make contact with the green, although it had little bearing on the frame, which Perry eventually won after a safety battle.
A semi-finalist in 2008, Perry was as impressed as the rest of the Crucible with the way O’Sullivan killed the match off.
He said: “I got blown away by the best player there’s ever been. I had him under a lot of pressure, I gave it everything but then he produced that at the end, so what can you do?
“He played fantastic snooker when it mattered. I’m pleased with my performance but I’m gutted because I had him where I wanted him. Five years ago it might have been enough to beat him but he’s a different animal now.”
In the morning’s other match, Alan McManus pulled away from his 4-3 overnight advantage over Ken Doherty to lead him 10-3 before Doherty made breaks of 93 and 88 – all reds and blacks before missing a tricky plant – to reduce his arrears to 10-5.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.