Snooker: O'Sullivan implodes as Ebdon earns patient win

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The Independent Online

Ronnie O'Sullivan, the troubled world No1 and defending champion, was eliminated from the world championship last night in sensational fashion by Peter Ebdon, who came from 8-3 down to triumph 13-11 as midnight approached.

Ronnie O'Sullivan, the troubled world No1 and defending champion, was eliminated from the world championship last night in sensational fashion by Peter Ebdon, who came from 8-3 down to triumph 13-11 as midnight approached.

Even before the pair embarked on a four-and-a-half hour evening session in which Ebdon took seven of the nine frames, including the first five, the Crucible in Sheffield had witnessed plenty of drama with two other former champions crashing out. Steve Davis, a six-times winner, and Stephen Hendry, a seven-times winner, lost to Shaun Murphy and Matthew Stevens respectively. Ebdon meets Murphy in the semi-finals that start today and also pitch Stevens against Ian McCulloch, who beat Alan McManus 13-8.

But nothing could have prepared the capacity crowd for the gut-wrenching, nail-stripping evening that unfolded as O'Sullivan disintegrated mentally and technically before threatening to get his act together only to slump again.

Ebdon, who gave a master class in steely determination, had ice in his veins until the final two frames, when the cold stuff was apparently replaced with jelly. He took even longer over each shot than the excruciating minutes he had been using earlier, not that he had any regrets afterwards.

"To be honest, I don't care [about critics saying I played much too slowly]," he said. "I wanted to win. Ronnie is world No1 and world champion, and he's an absolute genius. But I want to win this. There's no one in this tournament who wants to win it more than me."

O'Sullivan was visibly frustrated at the slow play, and he deserved some sympathy, with Ebdon taking five and a half minutes to make a break of 12 at one stage. But if ever evidence were needed of O'Sullivan's current mental turmoil, it arrived when he almost conceded the 21st frame with 13 reds still on the table.

At one point in the frame he even stood on Ebdon's chair to get a better look at the table over the head of the referee. Mostly he sat with his head slumped against the wall next to his chair, or grinning at his mentor Ray Reardon.

Murphy, the emerging star of the championship, completed a 13-4 drubbing of his hero Davis to reach the semi-finals. Murphy, a 22-year-old qualifier, held a 12-4 overnight lead and took the frame he needed against Davis, albeit scrappily, at the first time of asking. "I can win another two matches so I can win the world championship," he said afterwards. "I'm going to give it my best shot."

Hendry lost 13-11 to Stevens after being 11-9 ahead. "There was not a time in the championship where I felt I was playing well," Hendry said. "I kept missing easy balls and you can't expect to win the world championship playing like that." As O'Sullivan knows.

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