Ali Carter came through an ill-tempered clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan 13-9 at the Betfred World Championship to book his place in the quarter-finals.
The tension was palpable in a fiery Crucible atmosphere. The pair exchanged words after clashing shoulders in the 19th frame, with Carter leading 10-8. Referee Paul Collier interjected and asked the two players to calm down.
Just the previous evening Carter had neglected to shake Collier’s hand at the end of the second session. However, he later apologised to the official, stating that he had forgotten because he was so focused on the match.
The result ends O’Sullivan’s hopes of becoming the first player to win six ranking titles in a single season, having landed five already this term. He also misses the chance to become the first player to earn £1 million in prize money in a season, ending the campaign with £852,000.
Carter came into the tie with the odds stacked against him. This victory was his first in 14 meetings with the Rocket. The pair have previously met in two World Championship finals, with O’Sullivan lifting the title in 2008 and 2012.
On this occasion Carter imposed himself from the off, finishing the first and second sessions with 5-3 and 9-7 advantages.
O’Sullivan attempted to apply the pressure in the early stages this afternoon. Carter had taken a 37-0 lead in the opening frame, but missed a yellow with the rest. That allowed 33-time ranking event winner O’Sullivan to step in and clear with a sublime break of 66 and make it 9-8.
Carter refused to flinch and a run of 63 helped him to restore his two-frame advantage. Following the altercation in the 19th, the Captain secured the frame to move three ahead at 11-8.
Breaks of 59 and 71 saw O’Sullivan claw his deficit back to 11-9 at the mid-session. When they returned Carter struck a crucial blow.
The five-time Crucible king O’Sullivan had looked set to take the frame, but broke down on 54 when he missed a regulation blue. The Captain stepped up to the plate and made a steely clearance of 51 to take the frame on the black.
He then won the next to seal a famous victory and he roared with delight in the aftermath. Carter will now face either two-time Crucible winner Mark Williams or Robert Milkins in the quarter-finals.
On the incident in the 19th frame Carter said: “He will do anything he can to win, and so will I. He barged me, but I’m sorry, I’m not going to be bullied by anyone. I’ve been through a lot in my life, much harder things than a shoulder barge from someone. If I was going to fall over and roll on the floor, that’s not me as a person. It’s impossible. He didn’t exactly head-butt me and put me on the floor. The Crucible is really tight, it’s packed in there. We brushed shoulders and that’s all there is to it. There’s no malice there from me.
“I’m not intimidated by Ronnie like other players are. I’ve been through harder things than that in my life, so I won’t let myself down.
“There was a barge. I’m walking to the table and he’s walking away from the table. I might have invaded his space and he might have invaded mine. It’s heat of the moment stuff, there’s not a load of room out there. We had a little shoulder barge and a laugh about it, there’s no malice there.
“It’s a great win. I’ve got the utmost respect for Ronnie and what he’s done for the game. He’s under huge pressure and expectation, and to beat him today is very special. I’m only in the quarter finals, the job’s not done yet, so I’ll go home for a day or two and come back for the next match which will be even harder.”
O’Sullivan said: “There’s not a lot of space out there, it’s the Crucible and if it was about three inches smaller I doubt you could hold the event here. There were a couple of collisions out there and sometimes you just touch each other. Formula One has it all the time, they have contact in cars and we have contact with humans. It was nothing, just heat of the moment stuff and it’s forgotten about.
“There’s no hard feelings between me and Ali. We’ve known each other since we were ten and practised together. I’m not sure many players speak to each other during matches. Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis didn’t chat. I’m not one for chatting anyway. It’s quite superficial stuff really if you’re trying to create a relationship and a chat with an opponent. They are my rivals and competitors, I don’t want to get too friendly with anyone.”
Meanwhile, John Higgins seized the initiative in his second round match against Jack Lisowski, taking all eight frames in the first session.
Four-time Crucible king Higgins looked in fine form as he made a century and four more breaks over 50 to move within five frames of a quarter-final spot.
Lisowski, playing in the second round for the first time, had chances in every frame but couldn’t take them, and Higgins punished him with top runs of 62, 68, 101, 56 and 68.
They resume on Sunday at 2.30pm for eight more frames.