O'Sullivan leads at Crucible
Ronnie O'Sullivan leads Ali Carter 10-7 in the Betfred.com World Championship final after Sunday's evening session.
Pre-match favourite O'Sullivan was putting himself in a strong position to repeat his Crucible triumph over Carter of 2008. Eighteen frames is the target for the title, with the match due to reach its climax on Monday evening.
O'Sullivan hit a purple patch of form at the end of the opening afternoon session which illustrated the difference between the players.
A sprint to 92 was followed by a total clearance of 141 in the final frame as Carter slipped 5-3 behind in their all-Essex tussle.
O'Sullivan has revealed this match could be his last before retiring, and despite making similar claims in the past on several occasions, the prospect of retiring at the pinnacle of the sport, with a fourth world title, holds considerable appeal to the 36-year-old from Chigwell.
The rush of heavy scoring from the firm title favourite was barely in keeping with the action which came before or after it, though, because for much of the opening day the pair were mired in safety exchanges.
Carter had got the better of Stephen Maguire on the back of high-precision snooker and intense focus, the influence of Peter Ebdon shining through his play. Ebdon is helping Carter with mental aspects of the game from behind the scenes in Sheffield, and clearly their relationship is proving fruitful.
There are no complaints from O'Sullivan over Carter having a helping hand.
"I think it's brilliant," O'Sullivan said.
"I had Ray Reardon in my corner for a couple of years and I learnt so much off Ray. Any snooker player can always add to your game.
"I think it's very healthy in a way. Peter obviously is a great man to have in your corner and I think Ali's been wise there. Not that he needs it, but it's always nice to have someone in your corner.
"They get on really well and it seems to be working. Along your journey it's good to learn as much as you can, and I think it's a good move."
A break of 56 steered O'Sullivan ahead in the day's first frame, after the pair spent almost 12 minutes toying with each other before the first red dropped.
O'Sullivan's first century, a 117, was triggered by a fine long red and pushed him 2-0 in front.
Carter replied with 84 and it was 2-2 after a battle of the minds in frame four, with every red grouped around a corner pocket. O'Sullivan had the first real chance but spurned it by potting a red when attempting to knock in the black, and Carter seized his opportunity.
They split the next two frames, before O'Sullivan found the form which carried him to earlier wins over Peter Ebdon, Mark Williams, Neil Robertson and Matthew Stevens - three world champions and a two-time runner-up.
On the resumption this evening the match frequently returned to its earlier disjointed state, with the safety from both men outstanding at times but not creating a great spectacle.
O'Sullivan moved 9-5 clear with runs of 49 and 68 and a sprinkling of low breaks. Carter, from Tiptree, cut into the lead with a 59 break, but a swift 62 from O'Sullivan restored the four-frame cushion but Carter hung in there and trails by three frames going into Monday's final sessions.