Unstoppable O'Sullivan stretches lead in final

Odds-on favourite Ronnie O'Sullivan is on course to lift a third 888.com World Championship title after taking an iron grip on his final clash with Ali Carter at the Crucible theatre.

Odds-on favourite Ronnie O'Sullivan is on course to lift a third 888.com World Championship title after taking an iron grip on his final clash with Ali Carter at the Crucible theatre.

The Rocket never quite scaled the heights of his semi-final demolition of seven-times winner Stephen Hendry, however.

O'Sullivan still had too much fire-power for Carter, who is appearing in the first ranking final of his 12-year professional career.

O'Sullivan, 8-1 on with the bookmakers before the start of the match, has an 11-5 lead going into the conclusion of the contest on Monday - needing only seven more frames to make sure of victory.

He ended tonight's session in style by becoming only the second player after Hendry in 1994-95 to amass 50 centuries during a season with a 106 break in the final frame.

In addition, O'Sullivan compiled a further seven 50-plus breaks against an opponent who paid the penalty for not making the most of the opportunities that came his way.

O'Sullivan, already assured of regaining the world number one slot for next season, had won the previous eight meetings with 28-year-old Carter.

It would be the biggest upset in a world final since 150-1 outsider Joe Johnson overcame the then supreme Steve Davis in the 1986 final should Carter fight back and win.

Even O'Sullivan's 'B' game was too strong for his former practice partner however, who briefly rallied during the second session but ultimately was left with a mountain to climb.

If and when O'Sullivan crosses the finishing line he will join Fred and Joe Davis, John Pulman, John Spencer, Ray Reardon, Steve Davis and Hendry in winning the title on more than two occasions.

O'Sullivan set the tone for the day by ending the first session 6-2 in front and he consolidated his position when the players returned to the table.

O'Sullivan stretched his advantage in the first frame with a break of 78 after Carter had failed to cut a red into the green pocket.

The 28-year-old from Tiptree won the next - a scrappy affair spanning nearly half an hour - but paid the penalty in frame 11 when missing a straightforward red into the black pocket.

O'Sullivan put together a run of 86 before Carter finally found some fluency in the last frame before the mid-session interval with a 76 to the final black.

Carter continued his mini revival with an 80 clearance in frame 13 to cut his deficit to three frames.

After that he had to take a back seat again however as breaks of 86, 57 and 106 ensured O'Sullivan will be strong favourite to finish the job.

There has been an air of almost inevitability about proceedings during the past fortnight with O'Sullivan totally focused and scoring heavily when among the balls even when not at his very best.

Carter insisted he would not run out of steam after a late finish to his 17-15 semi-final victory over Joe Perry yesterday.

He also claimed to have the support of "two little angels on my shoulder" in a reference to his two grandmothers who recently died - snooker fans Daphne and Betty.

His best break of the match to date is 104 in frame four but he only has two other half centuries to his credit.

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