Ronnie O’Sullivan wasn’t in particularly good form but reached the semi-finals of the Masters on Thursday in London.
The Rocket cut an impatient figure at times but managed to fight back from behind to beat Barry Hawkins 6-3 at the Alexandra Palace.
O’Sullivan looked in decent shape when he began the contest with a break of 88 in the first frame.
But Hawkins, who lost 10-1 to the Rocket in the 2016 Masters final, took advantage of some erratic play from the world number one to win three out of the next four frames.
From there, however, the Hawk failed to capitalise on the numerous opportunities that were presented to him.
When O’Sullivan got back in front at 4-3, there appeared to be only one winner again and so it proved, with the favourite compiling breaks of 60 and 77 to seal his berth in the last four.
“I must have gone through another 25 different cue actions,” seven-time Masters champion Ronnie O’Sullivan told the BBC.
“I managed to find one that seemed to be okay, and then I started to feel like I can maybe pot a few balls.”
“That kind of settled me down a little bit, but it’s a funny old game. I wasn’t going to turn anything down. If it was on, I was going to go for it.
“I’ve played a lot since September. For me, I’ve played a lot and travelled a lot – backwards and forwards from China, which takes it out of you.
“Trying to do everything can be hard. I think, especially at my age, it can take a little bit out of you maybe.
“I feel alright. But obviously I’m like everyone else in this country, I’ve had a cold for about four weeks now.
“I lost my hearing as well when I was in China. I’ve not been too well, but I think everyone has been like that.”
In the ninth and what transpired to be the last frame, Hawkins got in first with a break of 50 before missing a tricky red to the middle pocket.
O’Sullivan responded with a trademark clearance that included a wonderful pot on the last red.
The recent UK champion then appeared to exchange friendly words with Hawkins during the handshake, which brought a smile to his challenger’s face.
“I just said sorry, because it was so bad,” O’Sullivan said.
“I felt bad for him, because if I’d have played alright, he’d have played alright. It would’ve been a good game.
“But I just think I’ve got this ability with certain players – most of the players – that if I’ve played bad, they play even worse.
“Not everybody. Some of the other guys punish me, but it’s just how it is. It’s been like that all my life really.
“I didn’t feel any pressure at all, to be honest. Maybe you need to feel a little bit of nerves – it’s important to feel nerves before you go out and play.
“I suppose I’ll be happy with it (the win), we’ll see what happens on Saturday.
“It could be even worse on Saturday. I need 12 pockets on the table, six ain’t enough.”
Standing in O’Sullivan’s way of a 14th appearance in a Masters final is Shaun Murphy.
Aside from a slightly shaky conclusion to his quarter-final fixture with Jack Lisowski, the Magician was in fine form.
Murphy compiled breaks of 131, 123, 76, and 75 as he beat his fellow Englishman 6-3 – sinking a stunning long black to seal glory.
O’Sullivan and Murphy haven’t always seen eye to eye, so it promises to be a fascinating showdown on Saturday afternoon.
Before that, the remaining couple of last-eight ties will take place on Friday.
Defending champion Judd Trump will seek to prolong his reign when he meets Ali Carter in the afternoon match.
Later, there will be a battle of the Marks between Selby and Allen.
The Masters is one of the biggest snooker tournaments on the calendar, but another major sporting tournament taking place this year is Euro 2024. For Euro Football 2024 tickets, check out Ticket4Football.
– draw, live scores, results –
Last 16 (bo11)
Judd Trump 6-5 Kyren Wilson
Mark Williams 4-6 Ali Carter
Mark Selby 6-1 Robert Milkins
Mark Allen 6-5 John Higgins
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-3 Ding Junhui
Neil Robertson 3-6 Barry Hawkins
Shaun Murphy 6-2 Zhang Anda
Luca Brecel 2-6 Jack Lisowski
Judd Trump 5-6 Ali Carter
Mark Selby 5-6 Mark Allen
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-3 Barry Hawkins
Shaun Murphy 6-3 Jack Lisowski
Ali Carter 6-3 Mark Allen
Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-2 Shaun Murphy
Ali Carter 7-10 Ronnie O’Sullivan
Featured photo credit: WST