UK Championship 2009: Higgins v O'Sullivan

Today’s eagerly anticipated second UK Championship semi-final sees the world’s best two players Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins face off in Telford. Click below for the story so far…

Meeting for the third time this season in a ranking event with the honours even at 1-1 coming into today, it will be very interesting to see who comes out on top today and earns the right to play Ding Junhui in tomorrow’s final.

The early running in this afternoon’s opening session was made by Higgins as the reigning world champion moved into a 2-0 lead, thanks largely to his supreme ability in the safety exchanges.

Ronnie looked to have  got himself right back into the match by taking frame three with a stunning break of 116 but this only provoked a four frame onslaught from Higgins who with a pot success rate of 93% and a safety success rate of 96% at one stage, was right on top of his game. His long potting too was in fabulous shape, as reflected by an 83% success rate.

O’Sullivan was not playing badly however and the scoreline could have been so different had he taken a crucial fifth frame in which he had left John needing a snooker to win. As it turned out, John forced the penalty points he needed and as O’Sullivan sent the white into one of the corner pockets with the final red hanging over the right-centre, sensed his opportunity to extend his lead to 4-1.

Importantly for O’Sullivan he was at least able to take the final frame of the session to keep himself just about in touch heading into tonight, but he will certainly have his work cut out against an opponent in full flight. If he could take three of the four frames before the mid-session interval however, he would be right back in it as plenty of matches have been won from 7-5 down…

Unfortunately I had to go out with the score at 8-2 but unbelievably Ronnie has managed to get back to within just one frame of John at 8-7!

I have not seen any of the evening session up to this point but I understand that there was a strange incident in frame 13. Could anyone bring me up to speed?

John understandably is looking nervous and having missed a couple of chances, has allowed O’Sullivan in to complete a six-frame winning streak and draw level at 8-8…

First chance goes to Ronnie but having gone into the reds on just nine points he has covered the black with one of the reds when attempting to bring more into play. He has also got the next but dramatically has missed the following pink to give John an opportunity to score heavily. Can the reigning world champion hold himself together?

He can! John Higgins largely thanks to the most gutsy 56 break you will ever see and a missed pink from Ronnie has come through to somehow get over the line to book his place in tomorrow’s final. Full credit must be given to O’Sullivan for coming back from so behind like that but it wasn’t quite enough today.

Incidentally I have now seen the controversial incident from frame 13 and that debate is going to run and run. What appears to have happened is that O’Sullivan was in a very tough snooker and about to attempt his escape for the seventh time when he accidentally touched the black and referee Jan Verhaas called a foul. As no shot had been played Jan could not however call a miss and so John could not have the balls put back. I have not checked the official rules but assuming Jan made the right decision which it appears as though he did, there is evidently a loophole in the rule here that needs to be closed to prevent the possibility of it being abused…