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Rocket inches towards title at the Crucible

ESPN staff
May 7, 2012 « Cavendish falls as Goss takes stage | Chartbeat test »
Ronnie O'Sullivan had Ali Carter in his chair for much of the third session © Getty Images
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Ronnie O'Sullivan moved to within three frames of a fourth Crucible triumph after putting the brakes on a mini revival from Ali Carter in the third session of the World Snooker Championship final in Sheffield.

The three-time champion was at his imperious best at times, at one stage threatening to leave the Sheffield crowd feeling short-changed by winning the showpiece with a session to spare.

Carter stopped that from happening, winning three frames in a row to stay alive in the contest, though O'Sullivan took the last prior to Monday evening's finale to open up a healthy 15-10 cushion in the race to 18.

Resuming the showpiece leading 10-7 after Carter had snatched the last frame on Sunday evening to stay in the contest, the Rocket - who has never lost a Crucible final - was quickly among the balls after poor safety play from his opponent allowed him to sink a long red into the corner. Seemingly within the blink of an eye, O'Sullivan was celebrating the 70th century of this year's tournament to leave Carter, attempting to atone for his 2008 final defeat to his Essex rival, trailing by four.

Carter's poor start only got worse when, in the next stanza, he missed a simple pink after O'Sullivan had for once failed to get a run together, and the three-time champion made him pay to stretch his advantage to 12-7.

More chances presented themselves to Carter thereafter but, with his confidence dented, he could not capitalise. In the balls once more, Carter cracked under the pressure, catching the jaws with a relatively straightforward red. Amazingly, O'Sullivan soon missed into the same pocket to bring Carter back to the table but a missed red with the rest was to prove crucial, O'Sullivan filling his boots to open up a six-frame lead.

Too much side saw Carter miss the yellow and O'Sullivan cleared the colours to go 14-7 in front and seemingly out of sight. However, the mid-session interval came at just the right time for Carter, who returned to stop the rot and give himself fresh hope of mounting a comeback. An error-strewn frame from both players went the way of Carter and he followed up with a century break to give the Rocket something to think about.

O'Sullivan, losing the momentum, saw his lead further eroded as Carter pinched the next, before the former world No. 1 reasserted his dominance with a well-taken 64 to put one hand on the trophy in the best-of-35-frames contest.

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