Rank outsider Graeme Dott stunned Ronnie O’Sullivan by winning the opening five frames of the Embassy World Championship final at The Crucible Theatre before ‘The Rocket’ launched a comeback.
O’Sullivan was 1-12 on with the bookmakers at the start of the best-of-35 frame marathon – the shortest-ever odds to lift the world crown at the start of a final.
But Dott, who had considered quitting the game in January after smashing his cue in frustration at his form, produced a superb display of potting against an initially out of sorts O’Sullivan with a series of decisive breaks.
It was only after going 5-0 behind that O’Sullivan started to show the kind of potting that had demolished Stephen Hendry in the semi-final as he took the final three frames of the opening session.
Dott, 6-1 to win the title. Had claimed in his press conference on Saturday that he can “just go out there and have a laugh” after writing off his own chances of defeating O’Sullivan.
But he made a dream start after O’Sullivan had missed an attempted cut on the brown and the 26-year-old from Larkhall took full advantage with a 71 break to the final red.
Dott pounced again in the next after O’Sullivan had missed a long red with a fine 77 and was certainly showing no signs of nerves in the biggest match of his career.
It was a similar story in the frame three with runs of 43 and 64 enabling Dott to move into a 3-0 lead.
And a disbelieving O’Sullivan found himself falling another frame behind as a 38 and 36 enabled Dott to complete the pre interval whitewash.
Dott was not affected by the break and a 60 put him five frames clear and the capacity audience could hardly believe what they were witnessing with O’Sullivan having gone three frames without potting a ball.
But O’Sullivan finally began to show what he is capable of and he opened his account in the next with a 100 break – his 13th century of the tournament.
The penultimate frame was not such a fluent affair but O’Sullivan, after an initial 34, gleaned sufficient points after Dott missed a red hanging over the green pocket.
Then he ensured he went into the evening session only with a two-frame deficit after a 63 in the last which was aided by a fluked red midway through the break.
Dott is looking to cause the biggest upset in the competition since Joe Johnson toppled Steve Davis 18-12 in the 1986 final to win £70,000.
Johnson was the competition’s rank outsider at 150-1 and he can see comparisons with Dott, who has never won a tournament in his 10-year professional career and only two matches at Sheffield before 2004.
Ironically, Dott is being given a helping hand from highly respected snooker coach Derek Hill, who was in O’Sullivan’s corner when he won his only world crown to date three years ago.
He parted company with O’Sullivan after eight years at the start of this season and arrived in Sheffield to be in Dott’s corner for the final after receiving a telephone call from him last night.
Hill said: “I first worked with Graeme the season before last when he came down from Glasgow to my place and I’ve been on the phone with him all of this week.
“Then he phoned me up last night and asked if I would be in his corner for the final so I came up today and did half an hour with him before the final.
“It is strange for me to come to The Crucible and not to be in Ronnie’s corner but we parted company at the beginning of this season.
“I wish Ronnie all the best. He is a genius. But now I am in Graeme’s corner. I feel appreciated by him and I want to help.”
Embassy World Championship, Sheffield
Final: Graeme Dott leads Ronnie O’Sullivan 5-3
Frame Scores: (Dott’s scores first) – 71-34, 77-9, 108-0, 97-0, 61-0, 0-100 (O’Sullivan 100), 17-63, 0-87