Ronnie O'Sullivan happy to miss out on 'ridiculous' £1million jackpot after shock defeat in the NI Open
Ronnie O'Sullivan saw his hopes of snooker's first £1m jackpot end with a shock defeat at the Northern Ireland Open to world number 82 Elliot Slessor.
Victory in the English Open last month set up the possibility of the 41-year-old completing a clean sweep of the four 'Home Nations' events, for which the seven-figure bonus cheque was on offer.
However, a 4-1 loss to Gateshead-born Slessor in the third round in Belfast killed off the prospect of O'Sullivan landing the richest prize the sport has ever offered.
He would have needed to win this week, add the Scottish Open title in December and also triumph at the Welsh Open in March.
But such has been the strength of O'Sullivan's game in recent weeks that it was beginning to look an achievable goal.
O'Sullivan came into the Belfast event on the back of a 10-3 victory over Judd Trump in the Shanghai Masters final.
Slessor's biggest career scalp came hours after he checked out of his hotel, half-expecting to lose.
The 23-year-old said: "To play Ronnie was just a dream anyway. You know the crowd's going to be full. I just went in not expecting anything. All I wanted to do was try my best and have a good attitude and see how far it got us.
"We checked out this morning just in case because we've got a flight tonight at half eight, which obviously I can't make now so I need to try to find a hotel."
Assessing his win, Slessor had his say on recent comments from O'Sullivan, who claimed that the tour's lower reaches are populated by "numpties".
Slessor said: "I know everybody can play on their day. As Ronnie says... there's not as many numpties as he probably thinks there is."
There was a second major shock as Gary Wilson ousted four-time world champion John Higgins in an entertaining see-saw contest. Higgins pieced together a hat-trick of century breaks - 142, 120, 135 - for a 3-1 lead but 32-year-old Wilson rallied for a stunning victory.
Trump and former world champion Shaun Murphy are among several other big names to bow out early from the competition. Ken Doherty made his exit yesterday, losing 4-3 to Liam Highfield in his third round clash.
The Northern Ireland Open has a total prize fund of £366,000, with the winner picking up £70,000 plus the Alex Higgins Trophy.