Snooker: Fu proves a fighter but Ebdon's on brink of final

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The Independent Online

Peter Ebdon requires two frames from the final nine of his best-of-33 World Championship semi-final against Marco Fu this afternoon to book himself a place in the final. The 2002 champion hit exceptional form yesterday to take 11 frames of 16 played, making three centuries and six other knocks of 65-plus to lead 15-9 overnight.

It was a day of rare quality and Crucible drama. In the other semi-final, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Graeme Dott treated the crowd to one of the most astonishing sessions the venue has staged.

In their ding-dong afternoon of superb snooker, nerve-shredding tension, controversy and, at times, sheer and utter brilliance, Dott won five frames and the pair will resume at 8-8 this morning.

Ebdon and Fu started the day at 4-4. Ebdon hit breaks of 68 and 107 to lead 6-4. Fu hit 60 for 6-5. Ebdon took the 12th with a crafty break of 94, all delicate touches and superb positioning to pick off a cluster of reds nestled on the bottom cushion. In the 13th, Ebdon hit his straps again with a brilliant long pot down the right rail to start a frame-winning break of 74 for 8-5.

Fu won the next on the pink but an error allowed Ebdon in during the 15th frame to knock in another measured century. His 101 made it 9-6, and 10-6 seemed a banker when Ebdon made a break of 67 before breaking down with a possible 75 left on the table. But Fu held steady to clear for 70. Ebdon hit a 122 in frame 17, and knocks of 48, 45 and 93 underpinned wins in the next three. The final four of the night were shared, with Ebdon taking the last with an 86.

Dott started the day 5-3 down and trailed 47-11 in the first frame. A cool 48 and an unplayable snooker made it 5-4, and a 68 was enough for 5-5 although O'Sullivan scored 38 and was back in control before a missed red. The 11th was a tale of scorching long reds, potty plants and rattled jaws. Dott prevailed with a 32, an 11 and a 23 to go ahead for the first time.

O'Sullivan took the next with a 62, and went 7-6 with a 35 and 30 after Dott was odds-on to clear up. Dott hit a 66 for 7-7 and then O'Sullivan, having picked the dodgy tip from his cue, took a 15-minute break to fix it. O'Sullivan denied ungentlemanly conduct.

The rules are opaque on taking off your tip (admittedly battered) when your opponent is coasting.

Most players take hours if not days to adjust to a new tip. O'Sullivan took seconds. The tip was hard. It clanged into the balls like a Newton's cradle walloped with a sledgehammer. In minutes O'Sullivan had a 124 break on the board and the audience on their feet. At 8-7, he hit a fluid 49 before missing a red. Dott, with ice in his veins, cleared with a 74. World Championship (Crucible, Sheffield): Semi-final R O'Sullivan (Eng) level with G Dott (Sco) 8-8 (Frame scores (O'Sullivan first): 0-121 (121 break), 85-11, 8-95, 75-10, 76-14, 63-28, 73-40, 44-72, 47-67, 38-85, 23-72, 76-19, 66-33, 22-87, 124-0 (124 break), 49-74.