Ding edges ahead of Selby in semi-final

Ding Junhui and Ronnie O'Sullivan all-square after mesmerising opening session

O'Sullivan related the match to the famous Masters final against Ding in 2007, when a well-beaten Ding was left in tears after struggling with the rowdy crowd. With a succession of pots, he looked as though he was about to produce a magic maximum 147-break, but poor positioning meant he played the pink rather than black, leaving him one point short at 146.

"He's a special lad, a attractive guy, and I know his family really well so I know he comes from good stock", O'Sullivan said.

Higgins is tied on 28 with Ronnie O'Sullivan and Steve Davis, eight adrift of Hendry, while Selby has catching up to do after landing 11 so far.

"And this thing that you have to keep breaking records and winning tournaments, I have just had the best year of my life and I have not won many and I think "how does that relate" but I keep enjoying it". It's not good for me or my worldwide reputation. "This year I have more confidence to come through".

The pair then shared the next two frames and Ding held his nerve, scoring a classy 117 to earn a semi-final place against Mark Selby.

Murphy went on to lose 13-7 to O'Sullivan and will have to wait at least another year if he is to add another world title to the one he lifted in 2005.

Twenty years ago he pocketed £165,000 for a maximum that took just five minutes and 20 seconds, but this year his reward would have been a relatively modest £15,000, made up of a high-break prize of £10,000 and a £5,000 maximum bonus.

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This time O'Sullivan said: "I was playing for the black but I just didn't get on it".

O'Sullivan declined a 147 in similar circumstances at last year's Welsh Open.

China's Ding made centuries in the final two frames of the third session, having responded to breaks of 128 and 64 by defending champion Selby.

A spirited O'Sullivan comeback before the mid-session break kept alive hopes of him claiming a sixth World Championship title.

There was no familiar threat of retirement nor any sense of disenchantment from O'Sullivan, who vowed to be back on tour next season. "There's no silliness going on here, I want to move on, but if anyone has a problem, whether it's Ronnie or anyone else.personally I don't see anything at all in there that's not what I'd expect from a major sport".

I love him. He's such a lovely guy.

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