Ronnie O’Sullivan scored a dramatic 6-5 win on the first day of the Dafabet Masters, after his opponent Liang Wenbo missed match-ball black in the penultimate frame.
China’s Liang had a golden chance to score a surprise 6-4 win over the six-time Masters king. Needing to clear the colours, he got down to the final black which was a few inches above the top cushion. But he wobbled his attempted pot in the jaws of a top corner, leaving it for O’Sullivan to make it 5-5. Handed a lifeline, O’Sullivan went on to make a brilliant break of 121 in the deciding frame.
The Rocket, who beat Barry Hawkins 10-1 in the final last year to equal Stephen Hendry’s record of six Masters crowns, goes through to face Neil Robertson or Ali Carter in the quarter-finals at Alexandra Palace on Thursday at 1pm (tickets still available – click here for details).
Chigwell’s 41-year-old O’Sullivan is chasing his first title since the Welsh Open 11 months ago, though he has reached three finals this season. With the majority of a 2,000 capacity crowd behind him in London, he is always a formidable force at snooker’s biggest invitation event.
A sell-out crowd of 2,000 enjoyed the contest
O’Sullivan won the opening frame thanks to an excellent long pot on the last red, and he took the second as well courtesy of an equally good pot on the penultimate red with the rest. Liang, who won his first ranking title at October’s English Open, fought back to 2-2 with runs of 109 and 48.
After the interval, O’Sullivan responded with 89 and 80 to lead 4-2. A high quality contest saw Liang hit again back with 65 and 83 for 4-4. O’Sullivan led 39-0 in frame nine before he missed a black off its spot, and Liang’s runs of 50 and 33 saw him take the lead for the first time.
And the Chinese cueman had his opportunity for glory in frame ten after O’Sullivan had missed the pink off the last red when 26 points ahead. But Liang’s miss on the black proved the crucial moment and he spent most of the final frame in his seat.
“You’ve got to feel for Liang,” admitted world number 13 O’Sullivan. “He should have won that match. He should have put me away.
“I don’t think I was much of a fight throughout the whole match, I just managed to nick a few frames through my experience. Maybe that was the difference. I didn’t feel very good in myself. I’ve had a bit of a virus. I just felt really lethargic, really tired. So it was difficult to really feel like I wanted to hold a cue, let alone try and compete and win a match in probably the most competitive tournament we have.
Boxing legend Michael Watson was among the Ally Pally crowd
“Hopefully in the next couple of days I can shake off this bug and feel better. I’m a bit of a momentum player so when I get on a roll I can flow, but when I feel like that, it’s hard.
“I don’t think your B and C game can win you tournaments these days. It might win you the odd match here and there. If I’d have lost there, I’d have been happy just doing a bit of punditry work because I just like being at tournaments, having a laugh with the lads.
“Liang’s a good competitor, he’s a very good player. He’s a winner now and I’m sure he’ll win again. The key is to improve on your weaknesses.”