A tale of two cue tips ended in success for Ronnie O’Sullivan as he enjoyed a night to remember against Ryan Day in the second round of the 888.com World Championship.
The ‘Rocket’ had to raise his game significantly to book a Crucible Theatre quarter-final against Mark Williams after being in danger of exiting the tournament when 9-7 down.
But in tonight’s final session, when both players had trouble with their tip, O’Sullivan turned on the style to win five consecutive frames before eventually advancing 13-10.
It could have been different, however, if his Welsh opponent had not miscued disastrously when on the brink of a 10-8 lead.
In trying to pot the pink, Day lifted the white over the object ball and into a pocket, allowing O’Sullivan to make a decisive 24 that brought the score level.
That meant the world number one had the momentum, even though he was unhappy with his tip, and at the mid-session interval changed it to one he had arranged to borrow from John Parrott.
Such action appeared unnecessary considering the way he was playing, but O’Sullivan was understood to be lacking confidence when hitting power shots.
Day’s only joy was when on the brink of defeat, pinching frame 22 to trail 12-10, but his tip let him down again as another miscue on the black early in the next let in O’Sullivan to wrap it up.
“I’ve tried about 14 tips in the last two weeks,” said O’Sullivan, bidding for his third world title after wins in 2001 and 2004.
“Ryan is a very good player and it could have gone either way. Maybe I’m a bit lucky to have gone through.
“The way Ryan played in the first two sessions you had to make him favourite for tonight and I had to hope the occasion would get to him. Experience tells you it’s never over at the Crucible and that’s been proven again.
“It’s a very intimidating kind of place and can really play tricks with your mind. He was just unable to finish me off.
“I didn’t want to get beaten – I wanted to stay around for a few more days.”
Day explained what had happened to his tip that had caused the costly miscues.
“The dome of the tip had got a bit hard and wasn’t taking the chalk,” said the 26-year-old from Bridgend. “It’s been happening on the practice table as well.
“I’m gutted to have lost. I felt I played really well and kept telling myself I was still in the match when Ronnie came back.”
Earlier, Ken Doherty produced a clinical display to reel off five consecutive frames and secure a 13-8 victory over Matthew Stevens.
Neither player had been able to gain the upper hand in the first two sessions, which ended all square at 4-4 and 8-8, but the Irishman raced away to buck expectations of a close finale.
Considering he had thrown away last night’s final frame to spurn the chance of a 9-7 lead, Doherty’s performance today was all the more impressive and he looks a leading candidate for the title.
Level on points with only the black on the table as he aimed to clinch a two-frame cushion, the 1997 champion had missed completely when attempting a fine cut to hand his opponent parity.
But instead of giving Stevens the initiative, it fired up Doherty for today and he immediately seized control, making breaks of 83, 69, 67, 63 and 51 to nullify the threat of the two-time runner-up.
“I didn’t sleep too well last night,” admitted the 36-year-old, who will face Hong Kong’s Marco Fu in the quarter-finals tomorrow.
“People were probably writing me off after I missed the black, but it didn’t weigh me down and I felt good once I got the first frame on the board today.”
Stevens admitted he had been beaten by a better man on the day and saluted the way the Dubliner had played.
“Ken scored heavily today and I didn’t get much of a look-in,” said the Welshman.
“He just played fantastic snooker – more or less flawless – and thoroughly deserved to win.”
Graeme Dott, runner-up two years ago, kept alive his hopes of reaching another final with a 13-9 win against Nigel Bond and will now take on Australia’s Neil Robertson.
In the morning action, Peter Ebdon wrapped up a quarter-final place with a session to spare.
Dubai-based Ebdon, winner of the title in 2002, took every frame of the second session to complete a 13-2 victory over David Gray and will meet defending champion Shaun Murphy in the last eight.