Ronnie O’Sullivan crashed out of the 2020 Champion of Champions after he was beaten 6-3 by Mark Allen in an ill-tempered quarter-final on Thursday.
There were fireworks on Bonfire Night at the Marshall Arena, with a heated verbal exchange between the players the big talking point from an otherwise high-quality encounter that produced two centuries and a further five breaks over 60.
The altercation occurred in the final frame when trailing 5-3, O’Sullivan accused a flabbergasted Allen of moving in his eye line.
Referee Marcel Eckardt was forced to step in and prevent the frustrations of both players boiling over.
The incident certainly affected O’Sullivan, who subsequently missed a relatively straightforward red, allowing his opponent to clinch victory with a break of 66.
“I don’t know what he was on about; he was saying I was moving in his eye line and moving in my seat,” a defiant Allen told ITV Sport.
“Marcel [the referee] even told me I hadn’t done anything wrong and to let it go. It was funny because he was completely gone and I took advantage.
“All I needed to hear was Marcel tell me I hadn’t done anything wrong; I knew then I was right. Ronnie tries to bully people out there, but I wasn’t having any of it.
“It was the worst thing Ronnie could have done; it fired me up and when he missed that easy red, I was never missing. Sometimes, he just needs putting back in his place.”
Refusing to relent, O’Sullivan responded: “I may have read too much into it, but it seemed like something you do when you’re an amateur down the snooker club.
“I wasn’t going to let it go and let him carry on doing it. But he deserved his victory.
“It started around the time when I was 3-2 up. That’s why I was taking my time on certain shots; I wasn’t going to play until he was sat down in his chair.
“When I was down on the shot, he started ripping his logo off, so I thought I needed to have a word with him.”
World number eight Allen had only tasted victory three times in the nine previous meetings between the players, but drew first blood courtesy of a neat break of 78.
O’Sullivan – a three-time winner of this event – hit back with 79 and after his opponent broke down on 37 in frame three, produced a fine clearance of 91 to edge ahead.
Despite Allen responding with 102, the reigning World champion, who swept Michael Holt aside 4-1 earlier in the day, restored his advantage after dominating the fifth frame.
Back came the former Masters winner, who had a great chance of making a 147 – only to break down on 104 after missing a tricky 14th red.
Nevertheless, he built on his momentum with a top run of 74 as he won the next two frames to move to the brink of victory.
Allen had required a deciding frame to scrape past a stubborn Scott Donaldson earlier in the day.
However, he was fully in control this time around and despite that heated exchange with O’Sullivan, held his nerve with a break of 66 setting up a Last Four show-down with world number one Judd Trump.
Round-up by Jonathan Davies
Have you ever seen an exchange quite like this in a snooker match??
— Live Snooker (@Livesnooker) November 5, 2020