O’Sullivan beats Ding to reach 13th Masters final

Ronnie O’Sullivan had five half-centuries, while Ding had successive centuries

Ronnie O’Sullivan reached a record-extending 13th Masters final with a thrilling 6-3 victory over Ding Junhui.

O’Sullivan, who won a seventh UK Championship title in York last month, raced into a 4-0 lead.

Ding hit back with three in a row, including missing the final green while on a maximum 147 effort, but O’Sullivan proved too good.

Neil Robertson, the 2012 winner, and Judd Trump meet in the evening session for a place in the final.

Saturday’s meeting was a repeat of the 2007 final, in which a visibly distraught Ding struggled to hold back the tears and was consoled by O’Sullivan at the end after suffering a heavy 10-3 defeat.

The clash between two of snooker’s biggest stars – crowd favourite O’Sullivan and China’s Ding – produced a fine spectacle as ‘The Rocket’ threatened to run away with the match in the early stages.

But O’Sullivan managed to get over the line and this season’s dominant player claimed his 29th win from 31 matches to reach his fifth final from the six tournaments he has entered.

Ding denied 147 despite thrilling attempt

The 43-year-old is now aiming to become the first player to win any Triple Crown event – the World Championship, UK Championship and Masters – eight times.

Ding had numerous chances early on but failed to convert them, allowing O’Sullivan to pick him off with breaks of 58, 75, 52 and 56.

After the mid-session interval, Ding responded with back-to-back centuries and agonisingly missed out on the 147th maximum in snooker history by potting 15 reds, 15 blacks and fluking the yellow, but was unable to convert a difficult green into the middle pocket.

Under the cosh, O’Sullivan countered in style, taking the two frames required, including a sublime 93 break to wrap up the match and the two embraced, with O’Sullivan warmly hugging and kissing Ding as they left the arena.

Ding said about just missing out on the 147: “It was not easy to play the green but I was lucky to get on it. I really wanted to make a 147 at the Masters.

“At the end he said he [O’Sullivan] loves me and it is great to play Ronnie because I can see how good my game is. He beat me on the safety play today.”

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