Ronnie O’Sullivan gained revenge on Judd Trump for a series of recent defeats with a confident 5-3 victory in the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open in Newport.
In a typical master versus pupil scenario, the latter seemed to have carried on from where he left off in the duo’s three previous clashes with a mesmerizing 109 break that suggested the potential for one-way traffic.
However, O’Sullivan has been a new and improved player temperament wise in recent weeks – indeed, throughout most of this season – and responded in kind with a century of his own to square the match before an 88 in the third gave him the lead for the first time.
The Rocket had a chance to respond to an early 60 from Trump in the last frame before the interval but couldn’t make the most of it, leaving the match perfectly in the balance.
After the respite, though, there frequently looked like being only one winner as Trump, while still playing well, increasingly started to miss key balls and revert to suspect shot selection in an almost do-or-die attitude.
By contrast, O’Sullivan looked as composed as he has been for years, evidently buoyed by his recent triumph in the German Masters, and compiled a majestic 139 ton to regain the lead – a maximum break using the 14 reds that were still available when he came to the table.
Trump responded in kind with an 88 to set up a grandstand finale but O’Sullivan was not going to be beaten by the young hot-shot for a fourth occasion in as many months and, after the UK champion missed a green in the seventh frame, Ronnie took control to claim his eighth win in succession.
The victory proves without any doubt whatsoever that the 36 year-old has plenty to offer a sport that he has already provided so much entertainment for.
Back-to-back ranking titles are now on the cards and with his confidence rising it is conceivable to think that he could be a dominant force from now until the end of the season.
Of course, there are many pretenders that will have plenty to say about that, one of whom being Mark Selby, who O’Sullivan will have to manoeuvre to challenge for his third Welsh Open crown.
Selby famously won his first ranking title at the Welsh Open in 2008 when he came from 8-5 behind to beat O’Sullivan 9-8 and the latter has never enjoyed playing the current world number one.
That sets up yet another intriguing match-up tomorrow, this time a clash of styles between O’Sullivan’s fluency and Selby’s dogged never-say-die mentality, which was again in evidence this evening when the Shanghai Masters champion won the last three frames against Stephen Maguire to prevail 5-3.
In a topsy-turvy tie, Shaun Murphy won the last two frames to beat Mark Allen 5-4 in a match played in good spirit towards the end.
It looked like Murphy had guaranteed his passage safely into the last four when he left the Northern Irishman needing three snookers in the decider but the UK finalist gallantly fought on and very nearly got back into the contest.
In the end, Murphy was finally able to progress after a very entertaining contest to continue a rich vein of form that he is enjoying in recent months.
Indeed, the former world champion has reached the semi-finals or better in all three major events staged in 2012 and will now be looking to add to his impressive trophy cabinet.
Murphy’s opponent for a place in the final will be Ding Junhui after the Chinese superstar pipped Stephen Lee in a dramatic final frame thriller.
With both players’ nerves in shatters, the frame ebbed and flowed one way and then the other before Lee appeared to be on course for a second semi-final in consecutive tournaments when he fluked the final red, seemingly on his way to a match-winning clearance.
However, an untimely sound from someone in the crowd when he was taking his attempt at the green put the former champion off and the ball rattled in the jaws of the pocket to gift Ding a much-needed victory of his own.
The timing of the noise reeked of foul play as if it had been done on purpose, supported by the reactions of both a furious Lee and referee Eirian Williams who immediately told the perpetrator to leave.
This may or may not be the case but the fact that phones are still going off, which appears to have been the cause, at such crucial times during important matches is ridiculous.
A sour end to a gripping contest then but tomorrow’s semi-final line-up is one of star-studded quality and should provide an excellent appetizer for Sunday’s final.