Ronnie O'Sullivan

Masters snooker: Ronnie O'Sullivan beats Ding Junhui; John Higgins defeats Mark Allen

Ronnie O'Sullivan produced a stunning comeback to defeat Ding Junhui at the Masters, coming from 3-0 and 5-3 behind to progress to the quarter-finals, while John Higgins edged passed Mark Allen 6-5.

Having looked in big danger of letting slip the chance to claim an eighth Masters title, O'Sullivan produced a huge dose of his trademark magic, making Ding pay for failing to close out the match when having any number of opportunities in a ninth frame that went O'Sullivan's way and turned the contest on its head.

A high-quality encounter, one that saw both players knock in two century breaks, always appeared to be in Ding's control after he had caught O'Sullivan cold to lead 3-0, and then again 5-3 thanks to his second century of the match in frame eight, but his opponent looked in good touch all afternoon and seized his opportunity when it came his way, finishing with the style and panache of old to suggest another Masters title is his for the taking this week.

Ding opened up with a typically pinpoint run of 83 and when he followed with contributions of 75 and 73, his lead had swelled to 3-0 with O'Sullivan still struggling to get his hand on the table.

When a good opening did come his way, however, O'Sullivan offered the first sign that he was up for the fight by winning the final frame before the mid-sessional interval - frame four - thanks to his first century of the afternoon, and he returned from the break looking much more settled, stringing together a break of 60 to reduce the deficit to 3-2.

O'Sullivan was stopped in his tracks when Ding began frame six with a brilliant red to middle, going on to compile a total clearance of 129 to give himself some breathing space, but O'Sullivan hit straight back by producing a masterful run of exactly 100 in the seventh frame.

Once again, Ding responded in kind as the high standard of play continued, another total clearance (128) keeping O'Sullivan at arms length and putting him 5-3 in front and on the cusp of victory.

However, the tide slowly began to turn when Ding spurned a number of golden opportunities to wrap up the match in frame nine, and O'Sullivan kept his hopes alive by mopping up the colours.

When Ding made only 12 from another good opportunity early in frame 10, O'Sullivan was already sensing blood and he again proved the coolest of cats under pressure, gritting his teeth for a nerveless clearance of 85 to level the scores and send the match into a deciding frame.

This time it was O'Sullivan who was left cursing when he missed a tricky red to middle on 34, but Ding was now swaying badly on the ropes and when he failed to pot a nervy brown to the bottom left-hand corner pocket, O'Sullivan landed the knockout blow.

Despite the cue ball being chained to the side cushion, O'Sullivan floated a desperately-tough red into the centre of the pocket with ease to get up and running and he never looked back thereafter - the swagger and trademark positional play that had deserted him before Christmas back in all its beauty as he sealed another famous comeback with a match-winning break of 73.

O'Sullivan said afterwards: "It’s a big match and it’s not always going to go your way, so you’ve just got to suck it up sometimes.

"I never doubt my ability to stick in there and my match-player temperament and bottle-wise I know I’m Premier League in that department.”

"I’ve been spending six hours a day on the practice table religiously for weeks, because I have not much else to do really.

"I’ve probably the fittest I’ve been for 10 years. I’m running 45 miles a week at the moment and I’m more excited about that than anything else."

The Rocket on his epic 48-mile running exploits and gruelling practice table routine!

Higgins battles past Allen

John Higgins held his nerve to beat Mark Allen 6-5 and book a quarter-final date with O’Sullivan.

Higgins trailed 39-3 in the final frame before a superbly crafted break of 59 saw him into the last eight.

The Scot had led 3-1 with Allen’s only first-session success a second-frame break of 106 – the 600th century in Masters history.

Allen started the second session with a 92 break and levelled matters by capitalising on some uncharacteristic Higgins errors to win the sixth frame on the black.

Higgins quickly regained his composure with breaks of 84 and 80, but Allen fought back to make it 5-5 and set up a thrilling final frame.

John Higgins looks ahead to HUGE Ronnie O'Sullivan clash at The Masters!

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