O'Sullivan's epic triumph

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The Independent Online

Having scraped past potential expulsion by disqualification, Ronnie O'Sullivan endured a trial on the table yesterday and, like the disciplinary inquiry before it, he just survived. He is now just a match away from his first Embassy World Championship final.

A desperately exciting, anxiety-ridden thing it was, too. Trailing 10- 6 then 12-10 to John Higgins, the world No 3 kept alive his hopes of becoming the youngest champion by winning 13-12. Having got on a lot of nerves at The Crucible, it seems he is living on his own.

No matter how you feel about the 20-year-old from Chigwell - and there are plenty who are cheesed off with him - there is no doubting he is a fantastic snooker player. Most people would have succumbed to the pressure of having his life put under scrutiny after he assaulted a press officer this week, and he could easily have scurried off to hide when Higgins, the second favourite, took a commanding lead. Instead he produced breathtaking stuff.

The last two frames were epics in themselves. Twice O'Sullivan gave Higgins a clear run to the line when he rattled reds in the jaws of a corner pocket from the rest, but on each occasion the Scot blew it. The first time he had the colours on the spot, only to get out of position on the pink. The second, at 35-21 down in the deciding frame, he missed a red and O'Sullivan swooped for the kill with a break of 33.

It was a thrilling triumph, the sort to put away for mental re-inspection in years to come, but O'Sullivan looked even more miserable than Higgins. "It's just a match," he mumbled. "I'm more pleased for the people around me who stuck by me this week. I can't thank them enough. It's difficult to explain how I feel. It's been a hard couple of days."

Asked if he had apologised in person to Michael Ganley, the official he assaulted on Sunday, O'Sullivan, who received a suspended two-year ban and a pounds 20,000 fine for the offence, replied: "I'm going to do it the next time I see him. I have been under a lot of mental pressure. It's been tough."

While O'Sullivan has had his path to the semi-finals paved with headlines, Nigel Bond reached the last four in his usual manner: quiet, almost apologetic. He lets his snooker do his talking and eloquent it was yesterday, dispatching Dave Harold 13-7. He now faces the reigning champion Stephen Hendry, a 13-5 winner over Darren Morgan.

EMBASSY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP (Sheffield) Quarter-finals: N Bond (Eng) bt D Harold (Eng) 13-7; R O'Sullivan (Eng) bt J Higgins (Sco) 13-12; S Hendry (Sco) bt D Morgan (Wal) 13-5.