|Mark Selby, in Sheffield, on Monday
Sheffield: Mark Selby won five of the six frames in a gripping third session to lead Ronnie O’Sullivan 12-11 in the World Championship final.
Selby trailed 10-5 at one stage in the second session on Sunday, but won six in a row to lead 11-10, before sharing the next two to leave the match perfectly poised.
Selby has produced great comebacks in finals against O’Sullivan before, most notably from 8-5 down to win the 2008 Welsh Open 9-8 and from 9-6 to win the 2010 Masters 10-9.
Selby took a scrappy opening frame today with a 55 after O’Sullivan went in off. He then won a safety battle before making a 52 in the next, and made a 74 to draw level for the first time at 10-10.
O’Sullivan is going for a sixth World crown and hoping to equal Steve Davis’s record, but he seemed to lose some composure as Selby went in front after more scrapping in frame 21.
Both players seemed to be feeling the pressure after the interval, as they missed a succession of easy pots on yellow and green, before O’Sullivan eventually drilled in a long green which helped him make it 11-11.
What turned out to be the final frame of the session went on for 50 minutes, and again came down to the colours. O’Sullivan potted a great long brown and tricky blue, but astonishingly rattled an easy pink in the jaws of a middle pocket and Selby took pink and black to take a single-frame advantage into the final session.
On Sunday night, O’Sullivan took a 10-7 lead at the halfway point. He treated the crowd to a couple of breathtaking century breaks on his way to what looks like the inevitable.
The champion arrived for his third world final on the bounce, refreshed after a day off. By contrast, Selby had spent his Saturday engaged in a draining, 12-hour semi-final against Neil Robertson.
As he stepped into the hall, Selby appeared to be suffering after his marathon match. Sitting in his chair watching O’Sullivan race into a three-frame lead, he was hollow-eyed, sallow, the stubble blooming across his chin. He looked finished.
But Selby has a firmer constitution than to crumble. Despite a highest break of just 58, he tried manfully to halt O’Sullivan’s acceleration.
Still he finished Sunday’s afternoon session 3-5 down.
Unfortunately, when he emerged for the evening, it became immediately apparent Selby had not exhausted his bad luck. He began the session with two unforced errors, then potted the white after sinking his first red, before hitting the pink illegally.
So his ill fortune continued as he missed several pots, one in the 11th frame so straightforward it drew an incredulous ‘ooh’ from the crowd.
O’Sullivan does not shy from taking advantage of such slip-ups. Dressed entirely in black like a cue-wielding Johnny Cash, he seized on every opportunity to move relentlessly towards victory. It is 10 years since O’Sullivan first won this title. He has never lost a Crucible final and now bestrides his sport with a totality that should alert the Monopolies Commission. Yet, every frame he got closer to joining Steve Davis and Ray Reardon in the pantheon as a six-time world champion was greeted with rapturous applause. (agencies)