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Ronnie's facing a battle today if he wants to stay in the world championships

O’Sullivan trails Barry Hawkins at the Crucible.

Barry Hawkins and Ronnie O'Sullivan (right) during day nine of the Betfred Snooker World Championships at the Crucible..
Barry Hawkins and Ronnie O'Sullivan (right) during day nine of the Betfred Snooker World Championships at the Crucible..
Image: Richard Sellers

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN WAS edging toward his earliest World Championship exit since 2009 as Barry Hawkins held onto his lead in their gripping second-round clash in Sheffield last night.

Leading 5-3, Hawkins split Sunday’s eight frames with the title favourite to go 9-7 in front, needing four more for victory when the match reaches its climax on Monday evening.

Breaks of 68, 118, 82 and 89 from O’Sullivan showed he is scoring well enough — he also had 139, 88 and 103 on Saturday — but Hawkins clawed his way in front and was fighting to stay there.

O’Sullivan is seeking a sixth victory at the Crucible and a first since 2013.

On the other table John Higgins carved out a 10-6 lead over Ricky Walden, putting the four-time world champion in a good position to set up a quarter-final against fellow Scot Alan McManus.

Earlier, Ding Junhui held all the aces in his second-round tie with Judd Trump, leading 6-2 after Sunday’s morning session.

The Chinese star saw his lead shorten after the evening session as Trump dug in to claw back to 10-6 overnight ahead of Monday’s session.

The pair split the first four morning frames, 2011 runner-up Trump levelling the score at 2-2 when he compiled a break of 106.

But Ding was stung into action, winning the next four to reach the break in dominant form as he closes in on a quarter-final slot.

He made his fourth century of the tournament in the sixth frame, making 112 following Trump’s break.

For Trump there is a sense of history repeating itself, as he had to pull off a great escape to reach the second round against Ding’s fellow countryman Liang Wenbo after falling 7-3 behind.

Ding, who had to qualify for the Crucible after dropping out of the world’s top 16, won a record-equalling five major professional tournaments two years ago.

The 29-year-old has enlisted the services of Wales’ 1979 world champion Terry Griffiths in his bid to win the sport’s premier prize.

And Kyren Wilson resumes with a stunning 7-1 first-session lead over Mark Allen.

– AFP 2016

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