O’Sullivan knocked out of UK Championship by Ding in thriller

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Betway UK Championship
Venue: York Barbican Dates: 26 November-8 December
Coverage: Watch live across BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, Connected TV, the BBC Sport website and mobile app from 30 November

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s quest for a record-extending eighth UK Championship came to an end in a breathless last-16 defeat by a rejuvenated Ding Junhui.

O’Sullivan failed to pot a ball in the first three frames as world number 16 Ding’s near-flawless start delivered breaks of 81, 52 and 110.

A majestic response, including back-to-back centuries, drew the world number two and defending champion level at 4-4.

Both men had good chances in a nervy finale, but it was two-time champion Ding who held his nerve to progress 6-4.

In the afternoon’s other last-eight tie, 54-year-old Nigel Bond became the oldest UK Championship quarter-finalist for 39 years as he fought back to beat world number 18 Gary Wilson 6-5.

‘It’s a really big win for me’

China’s Ding, who faces compatriot Liang Wenbo in the quarter-finals, has not won a ranking event in more than two years.

But O’Sullivan, on his 44th birthday, had “no complaints” about losing to the 32-year-old for just the second time in nine meetings.

“I was 4-1 down and he hadn’t missed a ball and I was thinking this could a 6-0 or 6-1 mauling on my birthday,” O’Sullivan said. “I got it back to 4-4 and twitched a red and he played well and held himself together at the end.”

Ding’s only victory over O’Sullivan in eight previous meetings came in the quarter-finals of the 2017 World Championship while his last ranking title win came at the World Open in September 2017.

“Ronnie played fantastic but it’s a really big win for me,” Ding said. “I am very happy. I knew his comeback was on the way. Ronnie played fantastic. He doesn’t miss many when he is making breaks.”

After Ding’s immaculate start, O’Sullivan made a 78 and 77 to help close the gap to 4-2. Successive centuries put the match level but the Rocket, who won his first UK title 26 years ago and was aiming for an 18th UK quarter-final appearance, missed several chances in frame nine.

And he then paid the price for a typically all-out attacking approach in the 10th as Ding closed out a famous win.

O’Sullivan’s loss means all of the world’s top four are out of the event, following the exits of Judd Trump, Mark Williams and Neil Robertson.

Brilliant Bond into last eight

World number 98 Bond, who beat world number one Trump in round three, won four frames in a row as he overturned a 5-2 deficit against Wilson.

The 1995 World Championship runner-up showed all his experience in the closing stages against an increasingly rattled opponent and made the most of an outrageous fluked red to get over the line.

Bond, who faces world number seven Mark Allen in the last eight, is already assured of a £24,500 pay day for reaching his first UK Championship quarter-final since 2003.

Fred Davis was 67 when he made the last eight in 1980.

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