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Anthony McGill held his nerve to sink Ronnie O’Sullivan in a final frame decider at the Crucible and banish any lingering memories of last year’s semi-final nightmare.
McGill withstood a stunning comeback from the defending champion who turned a 10-5 deficit into an 11-10 lead, only for the Scot to battle back and clinch a place in the World Championship’s last eight with a nerveless 85 clearance.
His 13-12 triumph came in startling contrast to McGill’s previous final-frame decider at the famous venue when he had lost out to Kyren Wilson in arguably the most remarkable frame in the sport’s history.
McGill said he believed the agonising nature of his loss to Wilson had made him a better player, and one better equipped to withstand the almost inevitable O’Sullivan assault.
McGill said: “For any player to lose a world semi-final in that fashion, if you can come back from that then you’ve obviously got something upstairs, so all these experiences and defeats have helped me.
“It’s definitely my best win. Ronnie really wanted it this year, there’s no doubt about that. He was targeting his seventh title – it wasn’t a Ronnie who was disinterested or not bothered – it was a Ronnie who really wanted it.
“I never thought about last year and I tried not to treat it as a decider. I just wanted to keep playing snooker. I just loved it. I treated it as if there was another frame to come afterwards.”
Out-of-sorts O’Sullivan had been outplayed in the second session by McGill, who won the first four frames of the day and finished a thoroughly composed afternoon session with a 10-6 lead over the defending champion.
Two centuries underpinned a near-nerveless performance from the 30-year-old, while in complete contrast O’Sullivan had laboured, and his decision to employ Mark Williams’ controversial break-off tactic appeared to emphasise just how short he was on ideas.
Consecutive breaks of 47, 126 and 89 took McGill’s remarkable streak to seven frames in succession, and a further 15 consolidated his advantage, but O’Sullivan managed to dredge up the final frame of the session with a quick-fire break of 69, and that would prove a springboard for a not entirely unexpected resurgence.
Not for the first time in his illustrious career, O’Sullivan returned a completely different proposition, digging out a staggering red to the middle despite being badly hampered by the jaws of the top pocket as he reduced his deficit to 10-7.
An equally brilliant green to the middle served up a break of 97 for 10-8, and as McGill began to wilt, O’Sullivan seized the advantage by wresting the next two frames and hauling himself back level in the match.
McGill returned from the mid-session interval clearly intent on trying to take the game to the champion, and despite O’Sullivan regaining the lead largely due to a break of 49, there were encouraging signs that the Scot was stirring.
His attitude paid off in the next when he capitalised on a poor O’Sullivan safety shot with a break of 87 to pull the match back level at 11-11.
After O’Sullivan had nudged back in front, McGill summoned a magnificent 136, his third century of the match, to force the decider.
O’Sullivan got in first with a break of 42 but a missed red left a chance for McGill, who cleared to win the match with an uncharacteristic roar.
O’Sullivan told Eurosport: “I had to chop away at it (McGill’s lead) and my mindset was great. That’s been letting me down in the last few years.
“The best thing that’s come out of it is that hopefully I’ve found a way to enjoy my snooker now, because that’s all that matters for me. It’s obviously disappointing, but at this stage of my career winning and losing doesn’t really matter.”
Neil Robertson leads Jack Lisowski 9-7 after a high-quality session which saw the pair compile at least one half-century between them in every one of the eight frames they contested on Friday.
Mark Williams scored two centuries as he overturned an early 3-1 deficit to establish a 5-3 overnight lead against John Higgins, while Barry Hawkins won the last three frames of the session to reduce his deficit against last year’s finalist Wilson to 9-7.