Ronnie O’Sullivan came from 4-1 down against Joe Perry to leave the Dafabet Masters final perfectly poised at 4-4 going into the concluding session at Alexandra Palace.
O’Sullivan, chasing a record seventh Masters crown, looked ill at ease in the early stages and made several unforced errors as he fell three frames behind. But he fought back to square the match and leave both players needing six more frames tonight to land the Paul Hunter Trophy and £200,000 top prize.
O’Sullivan is playing in his 12th Masters final and won it in 1995, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2014 and 2016. Last year he thrashed Barry Hawkins 10-1 in the final to equal Stephen Hendry’s record of six Masters titles. The 41-year-old from Chigwell is playing in his fourth final of the season but hasn’t lifted silverware since the Welsh Open last February.
Perry had never previously gone beyond the quarter-finals of the Masters and in fact the 42-year-old is playing in the final of a Triple Crown event for the first time. His best moment to date was winning the Players Championship ranking event in 2015. A brilliant come back from 5-2 down to beat Hawkins 6-5 last night set up the biggest match of Perry’s life.
And Cambridgeshire’s Perry settled quickly today with a break of 72 – in fact it was O’Sullivan who seemed on edge as he complained about the noise of clicking balls coming from the practice room. A run of 53 helped Perry go 2-0 up before O’Sullivan made a 58 in taking frame three. World number nine Perry continued to grow in confidence as runs of 74 and 115 put him 4-1 ahead.
And he had a chance to extend his lead in frame six but missed a tricky penultimate red to a top corner when he led 40-25. O’Sullivan cleared to snatch the frame, and that proved the turning point of the session. World number 13 O’Sullivan got the better of a scrappy seventh frame to close to 4-3. He made 55 in the next before missing the blue to a centre pocket. Perry had an opportunity to clear but missed the black on 23, his focus distracted by trying to move the last red off the side cushion. Again his opponent took advantage to square the tie.
They resume at 7pm with first to ten frames to take the glory.