Snooker: Last eight in sight as Rocket fires on all cylinders

 

The Crucible

Ronnie O'Sullivan, the triple world champion, powered to within a whisker of securing his quarter-final place here at the Betfred.com World Championship yesterday.

The Rocket resumed 5-3 up on Mark Williams but wasted no time in producing his vintage best as he cruised into a commanding 11-5 lead in Sheffield, leaving him needing to win just two frames to progress to the next stage.

Williams, the double world champion, was left shell-shocked and spent most of the afternoon glued to his seat as O'Sullivan reeled off six frames on the spin in establishing a deserved eight-frame cushion. But the Welshman at least spared himself the ignominy of losing with a session to spare by winning two frames of the penultimate session, although defeat is surely around the corner when they resume tonight.

Having won the final three frames of the opening session from 3-2 behind thanks largely to breaks of 86 and 48, O'Sullivan made it a combined nine frames on the bounce with further breaks of 107, 74, 51, 68, 128 and 93.

It was exhilarating potting from the sport's greatest entertainer as he moved a step closer to winning his fourth world crown and inflicting a fourth defeat on Williams in the last seven years at the Crucible. Williams rallied with a spirited 86 break to ensure the match will have a final session and maintained his record of having never lost a match at the World Championship with a session remaining.

The world No 4 pinched the last frame of the session to give himself a glimmer of hope, but barring a remarkable comeback it looks like O'Sullivan, chasing his first Crucible title since 2008, will be playing Australian Neil Robertson in the next round. Robertson, the 2010 winner, booked his place in the business end of this year's £1.1m event with a 13-9 win over David Gilbert, a qualifier from Tamworth.

Stephen Hendry, the seven-time world champion, will face Scottish compatriot Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals tomorrow.

Hendry last won the world title in 1999, but he has already dumped out defending champion John Higgins and pocketed a maximum 147 break.

Maguire expects a real tussle with his boyhood idol. "It will be quite special to play Stephen at the Crucible," said Maguire. "He was my idol. I started watching snooker at 10 or 11, and he won everything. He'll have one thing on his mind: winning that trophy."

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