Rocket on the rocks as Hawkins stays in front
Ronnie O'Sullivan remains in deep trouble and at risk of his earliest World Championship exit since 2009 after Barry Hawkins clung to his lead in their gripping second-round clash.
From 5-3 ahead, Hawkins split yesterday's eight frames with the title favourite to nudge 9-7 in front, needing four more for victory when the match reaches its climax this evening.
Breaks of 68, 118, 82 and 89 from O'Sullivan showed he is scoring well enough - he also had 139, 88 and 103 on Saturday - but Hawkins has clawed his way in front and is fighting to stay there.
Five-time world champion O'Sullivan beat Hawkins 10-1 in the Masters final in January, and was also brutal against the Kent cueman in the 2013 Crucible title match. Revenge for those defeats would taste sweet for the underdog.
Hawkins held his nerve in a tense and deeply tactical final frame of yesterday's session, after making three errors in the previous two that had allowed O'Sullivan to cut his deficit from 8-5 to 8-7, and taking that could prove critical.
Early in the first frame of the afternoon, O'Sullivan lanced a terrific opening long red and made 68 but then lost position, played the wrong shot and played it poorly, and Hawkins had a let-off.
From almost the point of no return, the 37-year-old hauled himself back into the frame and won it, an early dagger to the heart for O'Sullivan.
A third century of the match from O'Sullivan settled him, and they split the next two.
Momentum was with O'Sullivan heading into the final frame of the day, but safety play let him down, as it repeatedly had done in the frames that Hawkins won, and runs of 41 and 27 saw the two-frame gap re-established.
Last night, Judd Trump won a crucial final frame but still trails Ding Junhui 10-6. Antrim's Mark Allen battled back from 7-1 down but still has a lot of work to do with Kyren Wilson needing just two more frames to turn his 11-5 lead into a match-winning one