Chigwell's Ronnie O’Sullivan is on track for a third successive World Snooker Championship final after winning five frames on the spin against Barry Hawkins to hold a 6-2 lead after the first session.
Hawkins, who lost to O’Sullivan in the final at the Crucible 12 months ago, did take the initiative in the best-of-33 frames semi-final early on.
But, while by no means playing poorly, the world No.4 missed a series of key pots after the mid-session interval as O’Sullivan took full advantage.
Hawkins missed a routine pot early on to give O’Sullivan an early sighter at the opening frame, quickly compiling a break of 63 before missing a frame-ball.
O’Sullivan suggested the error was caused because of noise emanating from the television studio but the Rocket eventually composed himself to clear up to the green and take the first frame.
O’Sullivan opened up the second frame with two fouls – prompting a warning from referee Leo Scullion with a clear path to the red – before untidy visits from both players.
However, Hawkins found the breakthrough to rattle off an excellent break of 86 and draw the scores level.
And the 35-year-old did not let that momentum slip, breaking to the pink for a run of 76 to develop the lead over an increasingly irate O’Sullivan.
In the next frame, Hawkins compiled 43 in one visit but failed to sink a red, allowing O’Sullivan to mop up to the pink and make it all square before the mid-session interval.
Slack safety play had blotted O’Sullivan’s game, but he showed no conservative streak after the break by compiling efforts of 80 and 108 in clinching the next three frames in a row.
But Hawkins could consider himself unfortunate, the victim of several unlucky kicks which let the Rocket take prime positions on the table.
And in a tentative final frame of the session, O’Sullivan nosed over the line with runs of 24 and 27 to take a sizable advantage into Friday’s two sessions.
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