RONNIE O’Sullivan is on course to win his fifth World Championship title after taking a 10-7 overnight lead over Barry Hawkins.
Despite Hawkins’ best efforts of keeping the Rocket on his toes, the defending champion showed his world-class ability to win the final three frames of the evening session and take control of this year’s grand final.
O’Sullivan just needs to win eight more frames on Monday – the tournament’s final day- to successfully defend the crown he won for a fourth time a year ago after beating Ali Carter.
Trailing 5-3 from the opening session, Hawkins made the perfect start as he closed out the ninth frame to reduce his deficit to a single frame.
A top break of 49 helped O’Sullivan re-establish a two frame lead before Hawkins dominated the eleventh frame to reduce his arrears to 6-5.
The next frame saw O’Sullivan go 7-5 ahead as a maximum break attempt of 48 helped him go to the mid-session interval with still a two frame cushion to his advantage.
Hawkins though, much to his credit, refused to let O’Sullivan get away and came out in positive fashion after the restart as breaks of 83 and a superb 133 fired him level against the four-times world champion at 7-7. A scoreline not many expected to see.
But when it mattered O’Sullivan’s brilliance on the baize once again came to the fore. Having seen Hawkins fight back, the Rocket fired back ahead with a 103 after his opponent missed a long red early in the fifteenth frame.
And for a second time in this final O’Sullivan recorded back to back centuries as a brilliant 106 saw him move 9-7 ahead going into the final frame of the session.
The seventeenth frame, which proved to be the longest and most exciting of the match so far, ebbed and flowed with both players having chances to take it. But the critical point came in the final moments when the frame was decided on the final black.
After potting a brilliant pink along the bottom cushion, Hawkins opted to play safe on the final black only to over-hit it and leave a long pot on for O’Sullivan. The Essex man made no mistake with a ruthless long pot to end the session with what could be a crucial three frame advantage.
Trailing 10-7 Hawkins needs to make a strong start on Monday or else his hopes of winning his maiden World Championship title could vanish rapidly.