Ronnie O'Sullivan in danger of World Championship exit

Higgins has reached this stage of the competition for the first time since he last lifted the trophy in 2011 and has put himself in a strong position to progress to a sixth Crucible final.

That was despite some serious pressure late in the match from O'Sullivan.

He jolted Sheffield-based Ding by taking the four frames before the interval, setting a high benchmark in the morning's opener by making an ominous 100 break.

In the past, being behind has seemed to knock Ding's confidence, but he has shown a mental toughness in this tournament, in which he has overcome two fellow Chinese opponents and five-time victor Ronnie O'Sullivan. "It's a decade on and he's in a great place, I wish him all the best".

"I'm proud to have support from Ronnie. I have had the best year of my life and not been winning many tournaments", he said.

Ding took that one and made it 7-5 at the interval.

It was to be the first of four straight frames to see him through to the semi-finals against John Higgins, culminating in a contribution of 77 to secure a 13-9 win.

It has been suggested O'Sullivan spurned the opportunity of a 147 due to the low prize money on offer, just £15,000 compared to £165,000 when he scored a maximum in a record five minutes and 20 seconds.

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Carlo Ancelotti's men are nine points clear with four games left, but have now gone five games without a win in all competitions. We improved after the hour mark and displayed more courage.

I did not know that the score was enough until the crowd started clapping.

Of the £15,000, O'Sullivan still now stands to collect £10,000 for the highest break but the £5,000 maximum break incentive has been questioned, with seven-time champion Stephen Hendry among those who has indicated it should be much higher.

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

O'Sullivan appeared to enjoy ducking the 147. And he hasn't won the world title yet.

Ding will fight for the final spot against world number one and defending champion Mark Selby, who eased past Marco Fu 13-3 in the day's other match.

There was no familiar threat of retirement nor any sense of disenchantment from O'Sullivan, who vowed to be back on tour next season.

The 30-year-old Chinese player cleared up with a break of 76 in the first and then took the third with a run of 84 after Selby had again let him back in. I just kept potting silly balls from nowhere.

  • Regina Holmes