Ronnie O’Sullivan defeated David Gilbert 5-2 to set up a blockbuster semi-final clash with Mark Selby at the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.
O’Sullivan secured this evening’s victory with breaks of 51, 83, 102, 75 and 85, which ensured his progression to face three-time World Champion Selby tomorrow afternoon at 1pm.
The O’Sullivan and Selby rivalry has seen the pair do battle in the final of all three of snooker’s Triple Crown events and is arguably the most prominent clash in the sport today.
The Rocket holds the upper hand in their head-to-head record, leading 13-9. However, they haven’t faced each other on the World Snooker Tour in almost two years. Their most recent meeting came in the 2016 UK Championship final, where the Jester from Leicester won 10-7 to take home the title.
Following today’s match five-time World Champion O’Sullivan said: “I remember when I was playing against people like Stephen Hendry when he was number one and you have to just give it your all. It doesn’t get any tougher than playing Mark Selby in a semi-final, but that is what you practise for and what you look forward to.”
Selby secured his place in the semis by winning an engrossing contest with Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 5-3.
The match was always set to be a high quality encounter, with both players showing fine form this week. Thailand’s Un-Nooh produced an astonishing last 16 performance to beat Robbie Williams 4-0 in just 37 minutes. While world number one Selby has now compiled 20 breaks over 50 in the 27 frames he has played this week.
Un-Nooh came firing out of the blocks and made a break of 80 and take the opening frame. Selby responded with a run of 67, before Un-Nooh edged a tight third frame to go 2-1 up.
The Jester from Leicester landed a crucial blow before the mid-session, potting a tough final pink and black to ensure they went into the break all-square at 2-2. The following two frames were shared, before Selby forced his way over the line to claim the 5-3 victory.
Judd Trump came through a tough match with Ryan Day 5-3 to secure his semi-final spot.
The Ace in the Pack has produced some sublime snooker this week and continued to dazzle the Belfast crowds today, making breaks of 66, 73, 66 and 120 on his way to the win.
His opponent in the last four will be Eden Sharav, who completed a superb fightback 5-4 victory over 2002 World Champion Peter Ebdon.
Sharav trailed 4-1, but after clawing his way back to 4-4 he capped off a marathon win with a break of 44 under severe pressure in the decider. This result books him his maiden ranking event semi-final appearance, having only just reached the quarters for the first time this week as well.