Ronnie O’Sullivan came from the brink of defeat to stun Mark Selby and now faces Kyren Wilson in the World Snooker Championship final after a remarkable day of tense, nail-biting action.
The five-times champion looked down and out when Selby led 16-14 but produced three frames of clinical snooker to seal his place in the final, to be played on Saturday and Sunday with fans allowed in the Crucible.
Earlier Wilson won one of the wildest frames in snooker history to beat Anthony McGill 17-16 and advance to his first world championship final.
Selby, who led 13-11 going into Friday evening’s session, seemed to be in control of his semi-final and shared the first four frames with O’Sullivan. But the Rocket took the next to close the gap to 15-14 before Selby made it 16-14.
O’Sullivan blasted a 138 total clearance followed by an equally quickfire 71 to conjure another Crucible decider. The final frame was a more cagey affair but the Rocket prevailed to give himself a chance of joining Ray Reardon and Steve Davis on six world titles.
O’Sullivan said: “For three days I’ve just been looking for a cue action where I can hit the ball half straight. If I can find the cue action then I will enjoy the final. Cue action first and everything else is a bonus.”
Selby criticised his opponent for being “disrespectful to me and to the game” for trying to smack his way out of snookers.
It was the second match of the day to go to a deciding frame. Wilson edged home after an astonishing finale which finished 103-83 in favour of the No 8 seed. McGill missed an escape from a snooker eight times in a row, leaving the qualifier needing snookers himself – but he earned a reprieve when Wilson potted the white ball twice.
After a nerve-shredding safety battle, which included a 20-minute spell without a ball being potted, Wilson spectacularly fluked the green off three cushions. Scotland’s McGill was left needing snookers again, and could not repeat the trick. The final points tally – 186 – is the highest ever in a frame at the Crucible.
Wilson struggled to contain his emotions after the green dropped in, and broke down in his BBC interview. “I didn’t keep myself together. That is what I am most annoyed about,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was quite there today and Anthony was absolutely phenomenal.
“I’m in a really good place mentally, [and] enjoying just being a part of this world championship,” the 28-year-old added. “With everything going on in the world it’s a bonus being here. If I was going to go out I was going to go out fighting … [but] I didn’t want it to end that way. I didn’t want to win on a fluke.”
A rueful McGill, who came through two final-frame deciders on his way to the semi-finals, said: “I feel as though I played really well. I don’t feel as though I have done anything wrong. I feel like it has been stolen from me – not by Kyren, but by the snooker gods.”
Wilson, who beat defending champion Judd Trump in the quarter-finals, recovered from a 6-2 deficit to come into the final session with a 13-11 advantage. He quickly stretched his lead to three frames with a nerveless 94 break, but McGill reeled off consecutive breaks of 84, 87 and 122 to draw level at the mid-session interval.
The world No39 looked the more composed after the restart, rallying after Wilson’s 82 break with a nerveless 98 that sent him one frame from victory. Wilson forced the decider after a re-rack, but neither player could possibly have envisaged the drama that was soon to unfold.
Both players missed simple chances to claim frame and match, with McGill running aground on 39 then Wilson missing a simple red to middle on 47. With the black teetering over the top pocket, Wilson snookered McGill on a nearby red. The Scot never escaped, missing the red eight times and handing Wilson what looked an unassailable lead.
Yet Wilson duly stepped up and screwed the white back into the middle pocket, with another subsequent in-off handing his opponent back the initiative. The red then became perched tight on the top lip of the middle pocket, with both players trying and failing to pot it via the bottom cushion.
Wilson looked resigned to defeat after his miss, with McGill potting at the second attempt and the colours at his mercy. But the 29-year-old snookered himself on the green – and after another dramatic safety battle, a three-cushion fluke and a final pot on the pink, Wilson was left to thank his outrageous fortune.
Seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry, commentating on BBC Two, described the frame as “the most bizarre end to a world championship match I’ve seen”.