Ronnie O’Sullivan remained on course to land a fifth Betfair World Championship title despite Barry Hawkins putting up a commendable fight in the final at the Crucible.
The 37-year-old O’Sullivan, bidding to become the first player to successfully defend the title since Stephen Hendry in 1996, was 10-7 in front overnight and edged that lead out to 12-9 by the mid-session interval this afternoon.
When he returned from the 20-minute break to fire in a break of 133 the match looked to be going only way.
With 18 frames the target for victory, Hawkins urgently needed to make up ground but that was far from a straightforward task given the ability of his opponent.
Hawkins chipped away by reducing O’Sullivan’s lead to two frames in taking the opener with runs of 30 and 41 and the crowd, despite strong allegiance towards the champion, suddenly fancied a contest.
That prospect looked to be diminishing when O’Sullivan swept four frames in front by taking the next two with breaks of 54, 76 and a mesmerising 55, when with the balls far from ideally placed he constructed one of the great clearances.
Hawkins had missed a frame-ball red and O’Sullivan exacted the most severe punishment to lead by four for the first time in the match.
Hawkins pulled one back with a 90 break, but O’Sullivan’s fifth century of the match – he fired 103, 106, 113 and 100 yesterday – made it 13-9, with the finishing line coming into sight.