RONNIE O’SULLIVAN finally began to dominate second-round opponent Mark Allen at the Crucible as he secured an overnight lead over the Northern Irishman.
Confident Allen had come into the match insisting that “favourites don’t always win”, but defending champion O’Sullivan is today just four frames from doing so to reach the Betfred.com World Championship quarter-finals.
Allen resumed level at 4-4 but lost the final two frames of yesterday’s afternoon session to fall 9-7 behind ahead of this morning’s conclusion.
O’Sullivan made breaks of 107, 46, 60, 93 and 59, while Allen had runs of 108, 70 and 115. They shared the first six frames, with O’Sullivan struggling to shake off the dogged Antrim man.
Allen had a chance to pinch the 15th frame but went for one ambitious red too many and missed, with O’Sullivan knocking in his frame-winning 59.
A clinching 64 from O’Sullivan in the next gave him breathing space, even if he knows the youthful Allen will be determined to come back into the contest.
The pace of the session was a tremendous advert for the sport at a time when the authorities are considering whether a game with just six reds is the best way to attract a new generation of spectators.
Two frames won by O’Sullivan were timed at under nine minutes each, and no frame went beyond 18 minutes.
Allen has made three centuries in the match so far to O’Sullivan’s one but must effectively win today’s session by 6-3 or better to reach the last eight.
Shaun Murphy was booed by some audience members as he began his second-round match against Marco Fu.
But 2005 world champion Murphy had plenty to cheer by the end of their first session, having opened up a 7-1 lead.
Murphy was able to rely on strong support from the Sheffield audience when he lived locally for several years, and joked earlier in the week that his allocation of tickets used to be distributed to “the loudest shouters” from Rotherham.
The breakdown of his marriage last year, and his move to Sale, has changed the nature of his following, although in his opening match against Andrew Higginson the crowd was respectful.
The reason for yesterday’s jeering as Murphy entered the arena was unclear.
Once the match got under way, Murphy began with a break of 115 and then added the second frame after Fu failed to clear the table.
After Murphy’s break of 46, Fu replied with 58 but left a black in the jaws of a pocket and Murphy potted the colours from yellow to pink.
Fu responded with breaks of 60 and 47 to win the next frame, but Murphy took a hard-fought fourth to lead 3-1 at the mid-session interval.
Breaks of 73 and 77 pushed him into a 5-1 lead, then Murphy won the seventh frame after Fu left the brown over a baulk pocket during a safety exchange.
The inept performance from Fu was surprising, considering he had been so impressive against Joe Swail in the first round.
The match was a repeat of December’s Maplin UK Championship final, which Murphy won 10-9.
Murphy and Fu were vying for the right to face Stephen Hendry, who saw off China’s Ding Junhui last night. The pair were locked together at 8-8 but Hendry surged clear, taking the match out 13-10.
Welshman Ryan Day lead English veteran Nigel Bond 11-4, with the match to finish today.
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