RONNIE O’Sullivan took an even firmer grip on his semi-final against Barry Hawkins on Friday morning at the Dafabet World Championship.

The Rocket resumed with a 6-2 lead at 10am at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, with a possible three further sessions in the match.

But defending and five-time champion O’Sullivan may not need all of them if he can win  six of the evening’s scheduled eight after extending his lead to 11-5.

The 38-year-old thrashed Shaun Murphy 13-3 with a session to spare in the quarter-finals, and the same fate started to loom large for world No4 Hawkins.

O’Sullivan had actually trailed 2-1 in the early stages - but by the time Hawkins won his next frame to close to 10-3 he had lost 10 on the spin and most hopes of revenge for last year’s final defeat.

The 35-year-old was in receipt of that most dreaded of sounds for a top player, the sympathetic round of applause for stopping the rot.

But Hawkins did well to win three of the last four of the morning to gain at the very least some respectability, and finished with a break of 106.

Earlier O’Sullivan had left his opponent on the ropes with runs of 83, 53, 112 and 106.

The match resumes at 7pm on Friday night.

Meanwhile Mark Selby preserved his two-frame lead over world No1 Neil Robertson after their second session – but it could have been even better.

The world No3 led 9-6 and 53-0 in the last frame of the day in the pair’s already hotly contested semi-final.

But it showed in Selby’s face the moment he missed a simple black off the spot how important that mistake could be both in the frame, and the context of the match.

And Robertson, 32, coolly cleared to the pink to avoid standing 10-6 adrift overnight and instead face a more manageable deficit of 9-7.

Selby, in his first semi-final for four years, is bidding for a first final appearance since 2007 while Robertson is hunting a second world title four years after his first.


Photographs by Monique Limbos