Snooker: O'Sullivan's gamble secures place in final

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The Independent Online

Ronnie O'Sullivan, the defending champion, secured his place in the Masters final after a last-frame victory over Stephen Lee last night. The game had stood at 5-5 in their best of 11 frames semi-final of the Saga Masters at Wembley after Lee led 3-0.

But O'Sullivan came back and after the match said his victory was a surprise. "I didn't expect to win as the match started out," said O'Sullivan. "I was being out-safetied. I felt so isolated in my chair and I was getting buried, though not with big breaks.

"The only way I could win was by taking a gamble by opening up the balls. I learned a lot today. I found a way of breaking down players who want to play a tight game against me. I can't believe I've won. The way the game was going, I really didn't think that it was going to be my day."

Tolerance of frustration is the reliable indicator of O'Sullivan's mental state and some of his opponents try to test this out.

Just as he had been in the quarter-final against Peter Ebdon, O'Sullivan was patience personified yesterday, as the position of the balls dictated, after the opening frame of 54-minutes which Lee was to secure on the pink. Also frozen out in the next two, which took 52 minutes between them, O'Sullivan may not have been far from meltdown through infrequency of opportunity but, unaided by any contribution of note, he won the fourth comfortably.

A bungled break-off having given him a bad start to the fifth, O'Sullivan trailed 48-0 before a chance came his way. Dependent on luck for a favourable nudge from his initial red, he was instead left no alternative to a difficult do or die pink.

He would surely have gone 4-1 behind had he missed it but the pink found the baulk pocket to set up his 75 clearance.

The impression that this pink would prove a match turning shot was intensified after Lee had unluckily gone in-off on 42-0 in the sixth, and did not score again before O'Sullivan levelled at 3-3 with a break of 55.

O'Sullivan led for the first time at 4-3 through his break off 88 but Lee's two scores of 54 and 26 with no reply left the contest level with three to play.

John Higgins made breaks of 78, 64, 68, 63 and 79 to beat Alan McManus 6-2 in the evening semi-final, leading 5-0 at one stage. He will play O'Sullivan today for the £125,000 first prize.

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