Ronnie O’Sullivan won an exceptional match 6-5 against Ali Carter tonight to reach the final of the Northern Ireland Trophy.
In what was certainly the match of the tournament, there were 11 breaks over 50 in the 11 frames, and a dramatic finish for the thrilled Waterfront crowd.
At 5-5, the Rocket was first among the balls in the decider but on 52 he had to play safe.
Carter looked composed as he steadily built a reply, but on 51, with the final red on the top cushion, he rattled it in the jaws to allow O’Sullivan a second chance. The 888.com World Champion was snookered on the red but came off the side cushion to pot it and gain position.
He calmly dished to claim the win and give himself a chance to win back to back ranking events.
“I was surprised to get a second chance, I was surprised that he didn’t clear up,” said O’Sullivan, who will face Dave Harold over 17 frames in tomorrow’s final. “When he got in I expected the worst. You wouldn’t expect a player of Ali’s calibre to miss with the balls open.
“It wasn’t an easy shot on the last red down the rail, a bit twitchy. But I’d much rather be playing it than sitting there watching,” admitted the World No.1.
Despite the level of performance from both players, O’Sullivan is still searching for improvements in his game.
“I suppose it was alright to watch for the fans, a few centuries, a few winning breaks. But a lot of them were a result of elementary mistakes, which is unforgiveable at this level.”
The last time these two players met was the Crucible final in May, when O’Sullivan recorded an 18-8 victory. Tonight’s clash was much more evenly matched with Carter giving as good as he got. Seven frames were secured in one visit as both players scored heavily.
O’Sullivan has an impressive record with 20 ranking titles from 29 finals. Carter made his significant break-through in Sheffield reaching his first ranking event final.
There was never more than a frame between them as the fans were treated to top snooker.
The Rocket was quickly in the groove with a 96 in the first frame. Tiptree’s Carter responded by taking the next two, frame three was secured with a break of 106 after a re-rack. O’Sullivan levelled at the break with a 69.
The high scoring encounter continued after the interval. Carter struck first with a 97 to move in front at 3-2. They traded breaks, O’Sullivan hitting 60 and 108, Carter a 72.
A missed black, left in the jaws of the pocket, cost O’Sullivan frame nine as Carter compiled a break of 76 to move to within sight of victory at 5-4. The drama was not over yet as the Chigwell cueman hit back with 78 to set up that tremendous conclusion.
Looking ahead to his 30th ranking final, 32-year-old O’Sullivan added: “Dave has done brilliantly to get to the final. He’s had a hard draw, beating Graeme Dott, Stephen Lee, Stephen Maguire and John Higgins. Anyone who beats John Higgins knows their way around the table.
“I like a battle. Tonight was a good match but every time Ali got in I expected him to clear up, whereas Dave won’t try to split the pack and win frames. He goes about it differently.”