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O'Sullivan closing in on final

Ronnie O'Sullivan gave himself the chance to earn a day off as he built on his lead over Barry Hawkins in their World Championship semi-final.

Ronnie O'Sullivan gave himself the chance to earn a day off as he built on his lead over Barry Hawkins in their Dafabet World Championship semi-final.

And with 17 frames the target for a place in the Crucible final and eight to play in the evening, the defending champion had the sniff of victory with a session to spare.

The match is scheduled to conclude on Saturday afternoon, but Hawkins will require three of eight on their evening resumption to extend O'Sullivan to a third day in their tussle.

At one stage it seemed to be becoming a formality for O'Sullivan to win a second match in a row with the added humiliation for his opponent of failing to go the distance, as he burned to a 10-2 lead after breaks of 83, 53, 112 and 106.

Shaun Murphy had suffered a snooker annihilation at the hands of O'Sullivan in the quarter-finals, taking a 13-3 pasting.

Given the way Hawkins finished for lunch, with a terrific 106 break, he will want to make the contest considerably closer than its present position.

But against O'Sullivan, the man who beat him in the final last May, the 35-year-old Kent potter will have to pull out his very best form and concurrently hope his opponent turns in a listless session.

Hawkins was out of sorts as they began the morning, gifting O'Sullivan openings and having to stay seated while the five-time world champion scoffed down the chances.

O'Sullivan, remarkably, had potted his first 100 balls of the morning in the time it took Hawkins to sink just five.

The 20-minute mid-session interval allowed Hawkins to regroup, and he took two of the next three frames before making it three from four with the century break as O'Sullivan lost some of his sparkle.

Yet with Neil Robertson and Mark Selby contesting the other semi-final - a match that is guaranteed to finish on Saturday - the chance to take a day-long breather between matches was still there for the man chasing a hat-trick of consecutive titles in Sheffield.