Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump narrowly avoided early exits in the UK Championship after each emerged from dramatic 6-5 thrillers at the Barbican Centre on Sunday.
First, defending champion O’Sullivan fought back from 4-1 down to edge Ireland’s Ken Doherty in a repeat of the inaugural UK Championship final in York 16 years ago.
Later in the day Trump, who beat the “Rocket” to claim the Northern Ireland Open title in November, held off Dominic Dale for a similarly close success.
Despite the pair of entertaining matches that were contested in front of big crowds in the sport’s second most prestigious ranking tournament, the online chatter once again surrounded controversial comments made by O’Sullivan in the aftermath of his victory.
The 42 year-old, bidding for a record-breaking seventh UK Championship crown this week, suggested that he could be the frontman in a new breakaway tour, continuing his persistent tirade against what he proposes is an overly busy calendar on the Main Tour.
Ignoring the immense progress that has been made in the last decade to transform a sport on its deathbed into a thriving and rich industry that has generated millions in earnings, including for O’Sullivan himself, the world number three continues to be at a war of words with World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn.
O’Sullivan’s latest spiel has him claiming that Stephen Hendry would come out of retirement to play in what effectively sounds like a glorified exhibition circuit that would fill his pockets even more, while outlandishly also suggested that recently banned Chinese duo Yu Delu and Cao Yupeng could get involved too.
O’Sullivan hasn’t been shy in airing his opinions and openly expressing his feelings, whether positive or negative, throughout his career but his musings of late have descended into a semi state of farce.
Harshly ! Are you serious ? Cheats exposed and punished. Please keep such stupid comments to yourself. Your getting ridiculous and I expect better from a player of your standing. Enough
— Barry Hearn (@BarryHearn) December 2, 2018
Back on the baize, it was another busy day of action as the last 64 reached its conclusion.
Two-time former champion Ding Junhui was another player who needed all eleven frames as the Chinese number one scrambled passed Matthew Selt in a scrappy affair.
It was much more straightforward for Mark Allen, the Masters champion lacking sizable contributions but still managing to inflict a 6-2 defeat on Rory McLeod.
Meanwhile, Marco Fu and Ali Carter set up exciting third round encounters with Jack Lisowski and Stephen Maguire respectively – clashes that could have huge ramifications in the Race to the Masters standings.
The latter couple currently hold onto the coveted final spots that will provide invitations to the Alexandra Palace in January but Fu, who meets Lisowski, and Carter, who faces Maguire, could still upset the order with a deep run into the business end of the tournament.
Graeme Dott, David Gilbert, and Yan Bingtao are also in the running to feature in that subplot and all three managed to safely advance to the last 32 as well.
Elsewhere, Belgium’s Luca Brecel won three out of the last four frames to overcome Liam Highfield in a decider and Jak Jones fought back from a snookers required stage to dramatically steal victory away from Joe Swail in another tie that went all the way.
Iran’s Hossein Vafaei compiled a 139 break en route to edging Martin Gould 6-4 and Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham hammered Rod Lawler with a whitewash display.
Among the others to progress were English trio Martin O’Donnell, Gary Wilson, and Joe O’Connor – the latter backing up his superb first round win over Ryan Day with another strong showing against Andrew Higginson.