Stephens in trouble as Rocket on a roll

Matthew Stevens is clinging on as he resumes his World Championship semi-final against Ronnie O’Sullivan this morning after enduring a devastating six-frame burst.

O’Sullivan has never lost a Crucible final and barring a spectacular turnaround today he is heading to the fourth of his career, as he leads 11-5 ahead of this morning’s play (10am).

There is now every prospect of the 36-year-old triumphing with a session to spare in the best-of-33-frame contest. The Rocket treated a rapt audience to breaks of 61, 62, 110, 98, 90 and 113 as he cruised into the lead.

Meanwhile Ali Carter was considering retirement at the turn of the year, but now a second appearance in the world championship final beckons for the 32-year-old from Tiptree. He leads Stephen Maguire 14-10 overnight.

The final three frames of the day went Maguire’s way though as he belatedly found some poise, but the Scot still faces a tall order when they play to a finish this afternoon (2.30pm).

As the effect of Crohn’s disease, a condition Carter was diagnosed with nine years ago, took a drastic physical toll, he went to the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association requesting a year sabbatical. It did not come to that, and Carter’s health has improved markedly thanks to a no-wheat, no-dairy diet, albeit with a setback this week when he complained of feeling badly bloated after eating a steak.

He vowed after beating Jamie Jones in the quarter-finals that illness would not obstruct his Crucible mission, and Carter used all his guile to back Maguire into a corner he will do well to fight his way out of.

In the morning session, which saw Carter move from 5-3 to 10-6 ahead, Maguire twice lost his cool, firstly with a wild attempt to escape from a snooker and then when he thumped the table to draw gasps from spectators. He later appeared to question the judgement of referee Leo Scullion, a fellow Glaswegian, when a foul was called against him.

Maguire fired a 142 break shortly before lunch, while 134 and 73 in the space of three frames nudged Carter to 14-7.

Maguire fired breaks of 72 and 70, before pinching the final frame of the day.

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