Ronnie O’Sullivan completed a remarkable fight back against Kyren Wilson to reach the Shanghai Masters semi-finals on Thursday in China.
The defending champion looked dead and buried when he trailed his fellow Englishman 5-1, but rediscovered his scoring boots at the right time to claim the last five frames on the spin.
Wilson will rue a couple of missed opportunities but, more importantly, the luck that wasn’t with him on the home stretch.
After a dismal opening half to the contest, O’Sullivan looked to pick up a consolation frame when he compiled a 107 break to reduce his arrears to three frames.
But the encounter really turned on its head when an outrageous fluke helped O’Sullivan to the eighth frame, when a botched safety appeared set to gift his opponent an easy opportunity to complete the job.
After the “Rocket” scored a second ton to pull it back to within just one, Wilson’s head looked fried and the composure that he possessed earlier in the tie was all but lost.
Breaks of 69 and 60 helped O’Sullivan to complete the unlikely turnaround, much to the delight of the large crowd that once again scurried for a chance to receive their hero’s autograph upon the frenzied conclusion.
O’Sullivan remains the bookmaker’s favourite for the title, with sign-up offers for betting available with Matchbook bonuses.
The 43 year-old, who hasn’t lost in this event since 2016, will enjoy a day of rest before tackling Neil Robertson in the last four on Saturday.
Australia’s Robertson recorded a more comfortable 6-2 triumph over last year’s runner-up Barry Hawkins.
Robertson is tasked with a difficult proposition of facing O’Sullivan over two sessions, with the Shanghai Masters semi-finals taking place over the best of 19 frames.
The four previous occasions that the pair has clashed over distance have all resulted in O’Sullivan victories – notably twice already in 2019 in the finals of both the Players and Tour Championships.
Robertson is undoubtedly capable of putting up a credible challenge, particularly if his devastating heavy scoring comes to the fore, but their overall head-to-head record would suggest that the five-time world champion has a significant edge mentally.
Before that, the first of the Shanghai Masters semi-finals will take place on Friday between Mark Allen and Shaun Murphy.
The latter hammered Jack Lisowski 6-1, mirroring the scoreline that Allen had earlier inflicted on Judd Trump – ending the world champion’s 13-game winning streak.
💬 “To beat him after that 13-match winning run is a proud moment for me.”@pistol147 produced a fine performance to bring a halt to World Champion Judd Trump’s win streak. Now Allen has his eyes on Shanghai silverware.#ShanghaiMasters pic.twitter.com/iI6lY4jBt5
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) September 12, 2019
Allen has interestingly opened up about his decision to copy Trump’s approach this season and banish the ideology of coaching in favour of a more familiar face accompanying him on the busy circuit.
Trump’s fortunes, winning both the World Championship and the Masters for the first time as well as enjoying a return to the top spot in the rankings, dramatically changed for the better after he opted to have his brother Jack as his wing man and support network.
Murphy, meanwhile, has been riding a wave of resurgence after making adjustments to his technique in the off-season.
The International Championship runner-up looks a shadow of the poorer self that endured a torrid 2018/19 campaign, when his career looked to be on a rapid downward trajectory.
Murphy and Allen last faced off against one another in Daqing last month, at the same stage funnily enough when the “Magician” emerged with a 9-6 triumph.
Indeed, the 2005 world champion boasts a considerably superior head-to-head advantage over Allen, although the “Pistol” did manage to win their most high-profile affair in the title decider for last year’s Scottish Open.
What’s likely to transpire over the next couple of days is a barrage of big breaks as four of the sport’s most attacking players bid to reach Sunday’s showdown for glory worth £200,000.
Live coverage of the Shanghai Masters semi-finals is on Eurosport.
Click here to view the draw (Times: CET)