Barry Hawkins will go into the concluding session of his Betfred World Championship clash with Ronnie O’Sullivan with a 9-7 lead.
O’Sullivan has made three centuries and four more breaks over 60 in the match so far – and yet he trails Hawkins who has shown his quality and composure throughout.
World number 11 Hawkins clearly loves playing the Crucible and is the only player to have reached the semi-finals here in each of the last three years. He needs four of the last nine frames when they resume at 1pm on Monday to reach the last eight.
If O’Sullivan is looking for omens he’ll recall memories of his 2013 final against Hawkins, which he won 18-12, this year’s Masters final against the same opponent when he cruised to a 10-1 victory, and perhaps his second round match against Joe Perry in Sheffield two years ago when he trailed 11-9 but hit back to win 13-11.
Five-time champion O’Sullivan trailed 5-3 after the first session and looked set to win the first frame today until he broke down on a run of 68. Hawkins got back into the frame, gained the snooker he needed and cleared from the last red to snatch it.
The pair then traded blows with big breaks flowing, O’Sullivan making 118, 82 and 89 in frames ten, 12 and 14, while Hawkins made 74 and 65 to leave the score at 8-6. O’Sullivan’s runs of 40 and 48 saw him narrow the gap, but Hawkins dominated the last of the session with a top run of 41 to secure his advantage.
Meanwhile, John Higgins extended his lead over Ricky Walden from 5-3 to 10-6. They also resume at 1pm tomorrow, with four-time champion Higgins needing just three more frames to set up a quarter-final with Alan McManus. Victory would put the 40-year-old into the last eight for the first time since 2011.
Scotland’s Higgins won the opening frame today with a yellow-to-pink clearance, then added the next with a run of 90 to go 7-3 ahead. Walden battled back to win the next frame, then made an excellent 48 clearance to close to 7-5 at the interval.
Higgins pulled away again by taking the next two frames to lead 9-5. Walden’s run of 74 gave him the penultimate frame, but Higgins dominated the last to secure a commanding lead.