MARK SELBY made a stunning comeback to leave the final of the Dafabet World Championship too close to call at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield on Monday.
Selby was 10-7 down overnight but won five of the six frames played in the third session to lead 12-11 after O’Sullivan missed the final pink in the last frame, which would have given the defending champion the lead coming back this evening.
O’Sullivan bossed much of the first day of the final, with Selby failing to make a half century break until frame 11.
But from 10-5 down, Selby threw himself an overnight lifeline by winning the last two frames of the second session to resume trailing only 10-7.
O’Sullivan led 32-0 in the first frame of the day but went in-off and Selby compiled a 55 break before adding the scrappy 19th to reduce his arrears to just 10-9. The Leicester cueist then made his highest break of the match so far, 74, to draw level after O’Sullivan had missed a red at short range.
The last frame before the interval saw a lengthy battle on the final red. O’Sullivan potted but needed the black in addition and failed to obtain position on it. He attempted a low percentage double, missed and Selby did enough to lead the match for the first time at 11-10.
The first frame back after the interval was an epic struggle, with both players missing balls as the unique Crucible pressure came to bear. O’Sullivan initially missed the last red, attempting to cut it back, and later missed the yellow from distance. A series of near comical misses on the green followed before O’Sullivan stroked it in to leave Selby requiring snookers, to end a winning run of six successive frames by the world no.3.
The session was curtailed two frames early after the last one lasted 49 minutes, with an extraordinarily dramatic battle on the colours. O’Sullivan seemed to have won it when he potted brown and blue but missed a straightforward pink to the left middle, frame ball. Selby potted it and added the black to carry a narrow lead into the evening.
The best of 35 frames final resumes at 7pm UK time on Monday evening with a record £300,000 going to the eventual winner.
Selby is looking to win the world title for the first time while O’Sullivan is targeting a sixth crown and third in succession.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.