Ronnie O’Sullivan put on a thrilling five-century show for watching friend and new UFC star Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett.
The Rocket landed a final-frame knockout blow on Class of 1992 rival Mark Williams for a classic 10-9 win in Llandudno that sets up a Tour Championship semi-final against Neil Robertson.
The heavyweight snooker pair slugged away at each other all day on Wednesday at the Venue Cymru but it was six-time world champion O’Sullivan, 46, that put his rival on the canvas.
And one of the best matches of the season was lapped up by Liverpool MMA lightweight Pimblett, 27, fresh from his recent big win over Rodrigo Vargas at the O2 Arena.
In a contest that had everything there was even a ‘Fart-gate’ incident in frame 16 as O’Sullivan accused referee Leo Scullion of breaking wind next to him.
But the six-time world champion, who will return to world No1 after this event, is still in the hunt for a second title in this tournament reserved for the eight best-performing players of the campaign.
For Williams there was more but familiar disappointment. He has not beaten O’Sullivan in a two-session match for 22 years, and only once in any ranking event over 20 seasons.
O’Sullivan said: “My scoring was all right tonight and I was just pleased to get a chance in the deciding frame. Mark’s long potting was incredible all match, he didn’t miss one all day.
“I was struggling in that area and that puts a lot of pressure on the rest of your game, it’s like a golfer that can’t hit the fairway. But Neil Robertson will have to go some to beat that from Mark in the semi-final.
“If you don’t pot long balls it is so hard to get in, especially against the top players like Mark – they don’t give you easy chances. And if you get one, you have to take it and win the frame in one visit.
“Mark uses the SightRight method and it helps you get certain shots using it, he got one at 9-8 down, a green and a blue cut-back, I fancied him to get them and then go on to win.
“It’s hard to judge your own performances, but I didn’t want to go home tomorrow. Even if I had lost I might have stayed, done some runs and had some food.
“I am having a documentary filmed at the moment, so maybe I would have done something for that! But my life is mainly based around my fitness regime.
“I’ll get to the gym in the morning, do a run…I’m just pleased to be here. And then I’ll do some practice and then have some dinner with one of the TV producers.”
Williams said: “It was a great match to be involved in – but Ronnie must really hate me. He always plays like that every time we go up against each other.
“I maybe should have won that one, but not getting over the line..perhaps that is why I never get to beat him.”
It was a 49th career meeting between players in their 30th season on tour, and the packed crowd gave the pair a huge ovation.
And it wasn’t long before players with 107 professional titles between them started to turn on the style. After warming up with a 56, the Rocket rattled in efforts of 84 and a tournament-high 131 to lead 3-1.
Despite another ton from the Essex pro, Williams dug in and breaks of 58, 52 and 92 saw him claw back to 4-3 adrift.
But O’Sullivan finished the session two clear after a run of 89 – and the star turns traded centuries and big breaks like heavyweight boxers in the evening to leave the score 7-5 to the world No2.
Vital breaks of 50 and 51 saw Williams level things at 7-7, only to provoke his opponent into producing a fourth century of the day – an effort of 106.
Frame 16 saw O’Sullivan cause a stink by accusing referee Leo Scullion of breaking wind next to him. Williams shrugged off the incident and came up smelling of roses to make it 8-8.
Century break No5 put the Rocket on the brink, but after an incredibly tense 18th frame Williams nicked it on the pink to force the decider.
And though he had a chance to claim a famous and rare victory over the man he rates high above all others to have played the game, it was O’Sullivan that closed it out.