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O’Sullivan Wins Clash Of Titans

Ronnie O’Sullivan got the better of a battle of two of snooker’s all-time greats at the Coral Players Championship, beating John Higgins 6-4 to reach the semi-finals.

The Rocket will face Mark Allen in the last four at the Preston Guild Hall in Saturday at 7pm, with the winner going through to Sunday’s final to compete for the £125,000 top prize (limited number of tickets still available, for details click here).

Just as he did after the opening round on Monday, O’Sullivan put on a comical Australian accent for his post match interviews. But on the table there are no distractions from the serious business as he seeks to defend this title and chases a fourth trophy of the season. The 43-year-old is also just three centuries away from a milestone achievement of 1,000 career tons.

Today’s meeting between O’Sullivan and Higgins was their 62nd since turning pro in 1992, with O’Sullivan now leading the head-to-head record 34-28.

It was a cagey start, the first three frames taking 52 minutes, without a break over 50. O’Sullivan took two of those, then Higgins got going with a run of 96 for 2-2.

After the interval, O’Sullivan stepped up a gear with 101 and 92 to go 4-2 up. Higgins responded with 65 and 61 to take the seventh frame, then O’Sullivan’s 116, his 997th career century, made it 5-3.

A scrappy ninth frame went to Wizard of Wishaw Higgins and he had a clear chance in the tenth but missed the pink to a top corner on 16. O’Sullivan replied with 53, and though he under-cut a frame-ball pot on the penultimate red to a centre pocket, he got another chance and potted the last red to seal the contest.

“It’s always a tough game with John, he’s a great player,” said five-time World Champion O’Sullivan. “I’m pleased to be in the next round. Mark Allen has had a very good season, winning two tournaments. I’ll have to play well.”

Today’s result means that Higgins cannot qualify for the Coral Tour Championship in Llandudno later this month, as he had to win the title this week to earn a spot in North Wales. The top six players on the one-year ranking list (Mark Allen, Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, Mark Selby, O’Sullivan and Mark Williams) are sure of their places. Next week’s Gibraltar Open will see Stuart Bingham, Kyren Wilson and David Gilbert battle for the other two spots.