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Ronnie O’Sullivan v Ding Junhui: Masters Snooker 2019 Semi-Final preview – Rocket and Dragon collide for final spot

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Ding embraces his snooker idol O'Sullivan (credit: PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Ding embraces his snooker idol O’Sullivan (credit: PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan aims to seal his place in a 13th Masters final at the expense of Chinese sensation Ding Junhui at Alexandra Palace on Saturday afternoon.

The match signals a repeat of the 2007 Masters final at Wembley Arena in which O’Sullivan thrashed an emotional Ding 10-3.

Home favourite O’Sullivan, who eclipsed Stephen Hendry’s tally of Masters titles with his latest triumph in 2017, is now looking to reach a fourth final in his last six visits to Ally Pally.

The reigning UK Champion began his quest to scoop a seasonal Triple Crown with a 6-2 victory over Stuart Bingham in Round One before pulling clear from three-all to defeat Ryan Day 6-3 in the Quarter-Finals.

O’Sullivan’s incredible longevity since turning professional in 1992 sees him continue to topple numerous records, and with 989 career centuries to his name, the magic 1,000 is now very much in his sights in the coming weeks.

Ding won the last Masters tournament to be staged at Wembley Arena with victory over Marco Fu in the first all-Asian final and has already gone some way towards banishing his below-par record at Ally Pally.

China’s number one had struggled to get his season off the ground in 2018, with his best performance coming on home soil at the Shanghai Masters – where he reached the Semi-Finals.

He had won just one game at this venue but doubled his tally with a 6-1 thrashing of debutant Jack Lisowski before going on to deny Luca Brecel in an eventful last-frame decider, having earlier forefitted a frame on the ‘three-miss’ rule.

Ding will be desperate to improve on an ominous head-to-head record against ‘The Rocket’ which has seen him win just four of their 16 previous meetings, though his most notable triumph came in the 2017 World Championship Quarter-Finals as he recorded a thrilling 13-10 victory.

O’Sullivan gained his revenge in the final of the 2018 World Grand Prix with a crushing 10-3 scoreline before winning 6-3 in the Players Championship the following month.

Their latest encounter gets underway from 1pm GMT and will be contested over the best of 11 frames.

Either reigning Northern Ireland Open champion Judd Trump or 2012 Masters Champion Neil Robertson will await the winner in Sunday’s final.