Snooker: Doherty builds up early advantage

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Ken Doherty capitalised on a disappointing performance from Stephen Lee to take a 5-3 lead after the first session of their UK Championship semi-final in York yesterday.

Lee failed to reproduce anything like the scintillating snooker he played to crush the title-holder John Higgins 9-2 in his last round and the Irishman did not need to be anywhere near his best to take command.

Only in the last frame of the afternoon did the 27-year-old from Wiltshire show any break-building fluency as he compiled a 78 which will have given him heart.

Neither player started too brightly but Doherty was always just in control of the opening frame, and then battled back superbly to win the next despite having been 59 points down.

The Dubliner denied his opponent a point as he extended his advantage to 3-0 before Lee finally got off the mark just before the interval, edging frame four on the black.

On the resumption, Doherty moved three ahead again by sinking a re-spotted black which Lee had left over a baulk pocket, but the LG Cup champion stayed in touch with a break of 60, the highest of the match at that point.

A scrappy seventh frame went to Doherty before world number 8 Lee knocked in his 78 to stay on the heels of the fourth seed.

Earlier, Ronnie O'Sullivan branded Peter Ebdon "the luckiest player ever" after recovering from 6-1 down to beat the seventh seed 9-8 in the quarter-finals. The world champion was responding to Ebdon's claim that O'Sullivan had more than his share of "run", during his comeback.

"I had a lot of run? He's the luckiest player ever," said O'Sullivan, who was due to meet Mark Williams in the semi-finals. "I can't understand some of the shots he plays and how he gets away with them. You don't know what he's going to do next because he's so unpredictable."