O’Sullivan hanging on against Hawkins

PUBLISHED: 17:27 24 April 2016 | UPDATED: 17:27 24 April 2016

Ronnie O'Sullivan in action at the Betfred World Snooker Championships at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield (pic: Richard Sellers/PA)

Ronnie O'Sullivan in action at the Betfred World Snooker Championships at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield (pic: Richard Sellers/PA)

PA/Press Association Images

Crucible crowd treated to superb second session

The Crucible Theatre crowd are unlikely to be treated to a higher-quality session of snooker at this year’s Betfred World Championship than that experienced on Sunday afternoon, but far more importantly for Ronnie O’Sullivan, his sterling display just about kept him in the hunt for a quarter-final place.

O’Sullivan and his opponent Barry Hawkins almost resembled heavyweight boxers as they traded big blows in the form of ever-more impressive breaks to leave the best-of-25 second-round clash poised at 9-7 to Hawkins heading into Monday’s final session.

Traditionally O’Sullivan has dominated Hawkins with 10 wins from their 11 matches, with the lone loss coming in their first-ever meeting back in 2002.

The most recent encounter was a 10-1 drubbing in the Masters final in January, but the Kent man had shown enough in Saturday afternoon’s first session to lead 5-3 and although ‘the Rocket’ made a fluent 68 in the opening frame of the second session, Hawkins pinched it on the black and take a three-frame lead.

It is telling that in 14 years of facing the Chigwell potter, that moment was the first time Hawkins had ever held a three-frame advantage, but O’Sullivan brushed off any ill-effects in the next with a majestic 118 break to narrow the deficit again.

That began a period of relentless scoring as the underdog won frame 11 with a 74 break, only for O’Sullivan to respond with an 82 in the next before Hawkins posted a 65 to clinch frame 13 and the five-time world champion’s 89 was more than enough to take the 14th.

The Essex cueman then closed to within one in the afternoon’s penultimate frame, but any hopes he had of heading back to the dressing room level at 8-8 were dashed in the final knockings as a pair of 40 breaks ensured Hawkins holds a 9-7 advantage.

Given his ability to produce moments of sheer brilliance, O’Sullivan may still be marginal favourite heading into Monday evening’s finale, but the 40-year-old will know he is in genuine danger of failing to reach the World Championship quarter-finals for just the second time in 12 years.

*Watch the World Championship LIVE on Eurosport, with Colin Murray and analysis from Jimmy White and Ronnie O’Sullivan.

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