Snooker: Selby puts paid to Rocket's glory bid
MARK SELBY sent red-hot favourite Ronnie O'Sullivan crashing out of the World Championship at The Crucible last night.
Selby, who beat Ken Doherty in the first round, has become an irritant to three-time world champion O'Sullivan, having won 9-8 from 8-5 down against him in the 2008 Welsh Open and then 10-9 from 9-6 behind at January's Wembley Masters.
This was another example of Selby's refusal to accept looming defeat he won the final four frames to earn a 13-11 victory.
Selby began the evening session 9-7 behind, but knowing that O'Sullivan, who was curiously booed by a minority of spectators as he entered the arena, would be expecting him to fight all the way.
They had started the day at 4-4, but O'Sullivan threatened to run away with the afternoon session, winning five of the first six frames with breaks of 92, 89, 86, 117 and 52.
The flurry of high breaks made the next two frames critical, and Selby took both with runs of 104 and 62 to begin the fightback. He also won two of the first three frames of the evening to cut O'Sullivan's lead to 10-9, and was well placed in the next when he missed a routine black.
Selby struck the white so hard that the black jumped out of the pocket and six inches into the air before careering down to the baulk cushion.
For O'Sullivan the chance was an unexpected gift and he raced to 75 to take the frame. That meant Selby needed four of the next five to reach the semi-finals.
He made it three from four required thanks to a smooth break of 108, and then two from three after a scrappier frame.
Sis-times champion Steve Davis smiled his way through his inevitable exit, while also joining in the general hilarity that followed his mistaken introduction as former nemesis Dennis Taylor.
Rob Walker, the World Championships' popular announcer, was building up the excitement in approved fairground-huckster mode when he confused his champions and roared: "Ladies and gentlemen, he's a legend, he's Dennis Taylor...Steve Davis!"
Davis took the misfire in good heart, borrowing a pair of spectacles from the audience and turning them upside down in the universal symbol for Taylor. As he said later: "It was a fun moment. If the score had been 8-8 it could have been different because it might have broken my concentration."
Instead, the score after Tuesday's play was 12-4 to Neil Robertson, the long-pot specialist from Australia. Although Davis opened the session well, claiming the first frame with a break of 59, Robertson promptly ended the encounter with a cool 107, and thus qualified for the semi-finals of this tournament for the second successive year.
Ireland's last remaining hope was extinguished yesterday with the departure of Mark Allen, who was edged out 13-12 after a titanic battle against Scotland's Graeme Dott.
It was a bitter setback for the 24-year-old left-hander from Antrim, who could not shake off the 2006 champion despite building a 12-10 lead.
"I'm more disappointed with my performance than I am with losing. I just never felt comfortable," said Allen, so impressive when breezing past Tom Ford and Mark Davis in his previous two matches at the championship.
Allen, the first player into the quarter-finals last Friday, wondered whether his three-day wait to re-enter the fray had been counter-productive. "Maybe it was that long gap between matches that cost me. I felt a bit cold going in," said Allen.
Allen led 4-0 and 6-3 on Tuesday, but was pegged back to 8-8 overnight as the tenacious Dott, renowned as one of the sport's great fighters, grew stronger as the contest progressed.
On the restart yesterday, Dott quickly established a 10-8 advantage but, in first in the 19th frame, he missed a black off its spot from point-blank range. As is so often the case, it proved a turning point.
Allen drew level at 10-10, regained the lead by stealing the 21st frame on the black having fallen 64-0 in arrears and, at 12-10, looked to have broken Dott's stubborn resistance.
Instead, what followed was a repeat of Allen's defeat, from an identical two frames up with three to play against Dott's fellow countryman Stephen Hendry in the first round of the 2008 World Championships.