Ronnie O’Sullivan was well below his best again as Graeme Dott fought back to level their 888.com World Championship semi-final at 6-6 at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.
O’Sullivan, who defeated Dott in the 2004 final, had been fortunate to eke out a 5-3 overnight lead after being guilty of several mistakes which were capitalised on by the gritty Dott.
And the world number one was still not firing on all cylinders as he found himself on the receiving end of more determined play and consistent break-building from Dott, who had a knack of winning the scrappy frames.
Former world champion and BBC commentator Dennis Taylor claimed: “Ronnie is just not thinking straight and has lost confidence for the time being – and it’s all down to Graeme who is doing so well.”
Dott had gone into the session bubbling with confidence and claiming: “I know I can win but no-one else does so that is one less pressure to deal with.”
O’Sullivan was well ahead in the first frame of the session but failed to escape from two snookers behind the black on the final pink and Dott edged home after 35 nervy minutes.
Dott was first among the balls in the next with a run of 68 but O’Sullivan looked as if he could pinch the frame before breaking down on 38 attempting the final red down the rail.
His dogged opponent won his fourth frame in the row after O’Sullivan, who was already well in arrears, failed to convert an attempted plant. A run of 23 to the black by Dott put him ahead for the first time since he had led 2-1.
O’Sullivan finally managed to stop the rot in the last frame before the mid-session interval, levelling at 6-6 with a 62 to the final pink but he left the arena with plenty to think about.
In the other semi-final Peter Ebdon was looking to reproduce the kind of stunning snooker in this evening’s third session against Marco Fu which had given him a 9-7 advantage at the halfway juncture.
Ebdon, the 2002 world champion, demonstrated the fluent side of his game in compiling two centuries and five other breaks over 50.
It was in stark contrast to the opening eight frames which occupied nearly four hours but Fu, appearing in his first world semi-final, remained in contention.
He showed his mettle in the 14th frame when potting the final black to win after Ebdon’s initial run of 54 and then a superb 70 saw the Scot pinch the last after Ebdon had put together a 67.