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Williams wins O’Sullivan thriller to set up Lisowski semi-final clash

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World number seven Williams is the highest-ranked player remaining in Leicester (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

Mark Williams edged out Ronnie O’Sullivan 6-5 in an epic clash at Alexandra Palace to book his place in the Masters semi-finals.

The Welshman had not beaten his fellow class-of-92 student since overcoming by the same scoreline at the same stage of the 2014 International Championship, and it looked like that streak would continue when he trailed the seven-time champion 3-0.

However the two-time winner rallied, hitting a stunning 143 total clearance – his highest break at the Masters – on the way to forcing a deciding frame.

There, a stunning opening red paved the way for a brilliant break of 102 to set up a semi-final showdown with fellow left-hander Jack Lisowski.

O’Sullivan was seeking his 15th appearance in the Masters last four and made a strong start with breaks of 115 and 79 on the way to a commanding 3-0 advantage.

Williams responded with two brilliant opening reds culminating in runs of 55 and 83 that reduced the arrears to 3-2, but the Rocket dominated frame six to pull two clear once more.

Nevertheless, the Welshman maintained his trademark composure with a magnificent total clearance of 143 followed by a contribution of 90 that drew the contest level.

He then produced a nerveless 59 clearance from 50-1 down to snatch frame nine on the black and lead for the first time after O’Sullivan missed an ambitious red to the right centre.

The seven-time champion stopped the rot with 77 to take the contest the distance – just like their previous Masters meetings in the 2010 semi-finals and 2016 first round.

O’Sullivan prevailed on each occasion and had the first opportunity, but missed a straightforward black to the left corner.

Williams established control with 30 and, after his opponent went in-off, floated in a tremendous long-range red before clearing with 102 to secure his first victory over the Rocket on British soil since the 2000 UK Championship semi-finals.

Appearing in the last four for the second year running, the 47-year-old will face Lisowski, who overcame Hossein Vafaei 6-4.

Jackpot booked his place in a second successive Triple Crown semi-final, having also reached that stage at the UK Championship in November.

Lisowski, who had failed to win on his three previous Masters appearances prior to beating John Higgins in round one, opened with breaks of 96 and 76, but his opponent responded with 68 and a wonderful 143 total clearance to level at the interval.

The next four frames were also shared with debutant Vafaei seeking only a second victory in eight meetings between the players.

But under the watchful eye of coach Peter Ebdon, Lisowski snatched a scrappy ninth on the blue, before sealing the deal with 74.