Referee dispute and ‘doorgate’: How Ronnie O’Sullivan’s chaotic World Snooker Championship unravelled

The seven-time world champion was beaten 13-10 by Stuart Bingham at the Crucible

Harry Latham-Coyle
Thursday 02 May 2024 10:18 BST
Ronnie O’Sullivan was beaten by Stuart Bingham at the Crucible
Ronnie O’Sullivan was beaten by Stuart Bingham at the Crucible (Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s chase for a record eighth World Championship is over after defeat to Stuart Bingham on a day of drama at the Crucible.

O’Sullivan had hoped to move clear of Stephen Hendry as the most successful player at the event in the modern era, but exited at the quarter-final stage after a chaotic encounter that ended 13-10 in Bingham’s favour.

Last the tournament winner in 2022, O’Sullivan had arrived in Sheffield seeking to become only the fourth man to sweep the Triple Crown events in a single season having won The Masters and UK Championship earlier in the campaign.

Yet the 48-year-old was undone by a composed Bingham and a couple of moments of contention in Sheffield.

The first of them came in the 12th frame when O’Sullivan turned down a seemingly pottable red because he believed the black had not been re-spotted correctly.

Ronnie O’Sullivan keeps a close eye as Desislava Bozhilova re-spots the black
Ronnie O’Sullivan keeps a close eye as Desislava Bozhilova re-spots the black (Action Images via Reuters)

With the cue ball in close proximity to the black spot, referee Desislava Bozhilova was asked to replace it by O’Sullivan, who went on to lose the frame, in a moment described by Neil Robertson on the BBC as “probably one of the greatest bits of sportsmanship I have ever seen in any sport”.

O’Sullivan felt differently, though, claiming that some referees “have it in for” him and suggesting that he wanted to prove that Bozhilova “got it wrong”.

“I didn’t feel good about potting the ball after that, but I just wanted to make the point,” he said to Eurosport. “The point was made. I’m not that hungry to win it in that way, so once the principle’s been made I can sleep at night.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan was knocked out of the World Championship
Ronnie O’Sullivan was knocked out of the World Championship (Getty Images)

Bozhilova, 31, has refereed on the professional tour for 12 years. World Snooker have said that she acted correctly throughout.

There would be yet more drama in a tight 21st frame when O’Sullivan was unsettled by movement in the arena while waiting to capitalise on a missed pink from Bingham.

Spectators making their way down the steps disturbed the seven-time world champion, who took his seat to wait for the crowd to settle.

Having been urged to resume by Bozhilova, O’Sullivan told the official to “relax” and “just chill”, before again sitting down as yet more people made their way in through the entrance door.

O’Sullivan fired in a long red but could not convert it into a frame-winning visit, with Bingham taking the final three of the match to set up a semi-final meeting with Jak Jones.

“It’s just the way it goes,” O’Sullivan said after his defeat. “I’m actually really happy, feel I’m actually getting through the ball which is more important for me at this stage.

“It’s not the win I’d have liked but that’s snooker, that’s the way it goes. Good luck to Stuart, he played a fantastic match and deserved his victory. I’m just pleased I competed - just a few errors here and there but on the whole not too bad.

“I was just coming here knowing it was going to be another difficult tournament, no one has any divine right to win any match. A lot can happen in the game of snooker and that’s just sport you know.”

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