UK Championship 2018: Ronnie O'Sullivan survives scare to beat Ken Doherty
Ronnie O'Sullivan survived a major scare by battling from behind to edge past Ken Doherty 6-5 and reach the UK Championship third round.
The defending champion looked like heading out as Doherty led 4-1.
O'Sullivan responded in style with breaks of 75 and 76 on the way to claiming four in a row, but Doherty hit back to force a decider in York.
Both players had chances in the final frame, but the Englishman held himself together to go through.
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O'Sullivan, who turns 43 on Wednesday, is aiming for a record seventh title in the event. He is currently level with Stephen Hendry on 18 'Triple Crown' victories - a name that covers the World Championship, UK Championship and Masters.
Despite easing past Luke Simmonds in the first round, O'Sullivan said he "really, really struggled" during the match with illness.
In a repeat of the 2001 final, in which O'Sullivan thrashed Doherty 10-1, 'The Rocket' was going the way of former champions Mark Selby, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy, who have all suffered surprise exits before the third-round stage.
Irishman Doherty's quick-tempo start with 66, 76, 77 and 71 put him in a commanding position - with O'Sullivan's highest break just 31 at that stage - but two missed reds to the right corner proved critical as the champion sneaked through to face China's Zhou Yuelong on Monday at 13:00 GMT.
Four of the eight afternoon matches went to a deciding frame with China's Ding Junhui avoiding a shock exit by scraping past England's Matthew Selt 6-5.
World number eight Ding struggled throughout, making a high break of just 56, and trailed 4-2 and 5-4, but took the last two frames to advance.
Luca Brecel beat Liam Highfield and Welshman Jak Jones edged out Joe Swail of Northern Ireland by the same score.
In the evening session, 2011 champion Judd Trump was made to work hard for his nervy 6-5 victory over Welshman Dominic Dale.
Trump had fallen 2-0 behind, but stroked in a 110 break to go up 5-4, but after sinking an incredible long blue, missed match-ball black off the spot, allowing Dale to force a decider.
But Trump made no mistake in the crucial 11th frame, stroking in a cool century to advance.
International Championship winner Mark Allen beat Rory McLeod 6-2 and Marco Fu defeated Luo Honghao of China by the same scoreline.
'I felt nervous because I've got a love back for it'
"Ken played fantastically well in the first part and the luck turned a bit, I got a couple of nudges and got into the game," O'Sullivan said.
"I didn't do a lot wrong but he played so quick and positive, it kind of puts you on edge.
"Sometimes you have to win when things are not going well. I felt nervous because I've got a love back for it.
"You feel like a gladiator. Money can't buy that. Imposing yourself on a game is as near to a gladiator as I get and that's why we play this game.
"I'm not thinking about breaking records. I think about maximising what I can do, trying to improve in every area."
Doherty, now 49, who won the world title in 1997, said: "It was a great match to be involved in. When I went 4-1 up, I was feeling great. Even at the end it was just a great atmosphere. He came back very strongly as you would expect and played some great stuff at the end.
"I just wanted to go out and enjoy it and not put too much pressure on myself, be as competitive as possible. I couldn't believe how relaxed I was, I was loving the atmosphere and the chance to challenge myself and Ronnie on the big stage.
"Hopefully I can play like this for the rest of the season and it will give me a bit of confidence going forward. I had him, I really did, but it wasn't to be."
Banned Chinese duo 'treated harshly'
O'Sullivan tweeted after the match that two players banned on Saturday after pleading guilty to match-fixing had been "treated harshly".
Yu Delu was banned for more than 10 years and his Chinese compatriot Cao Yupeng for six years - with three-and-a-half years of his sentence suspended - after a major inquiry.
World champion Mark Williams said on Saturday those caught match-fixing or involved in gambling in snooker should be "banned for life".
O'Sullivan's tweet read: "Just to be clear, whilst I think the banned Chinese players have been treated harshly, I do not support crime or corruption in anyway, I have my own views on certain issues which I will share with you, more to follow."
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn replied by saying: "Harshly! Are you serious? Cheats exposed and punished. Please keep such stupid comments to yourself. You're getting ridiculous and I expect better from a player of your standing. Enough."
Match analysis - 'Ronnie has weathered the storm'
Six-time world champion Steve Davis on O'Sullivan v Doherty: "Ronnie has weathered the storm today. A couple of positional shots and cuts have gone wrong for Ken, but it's tough at the top. Only a player of Ronnie's ability would have been able to turn this around.
"It would have been easy to have baulked but Ronnie has turned this around in great style. It would have been very easy for him to have said he had a black day and that nothing had gone right.
Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry: "Ken had nothing to lose and nothing to expect from this match but he will be very disappointed. He will know he had chances to win the match, even in the final frame.
"He had one good chance and one half-chance. You never lose the competitive instinct and will never settle for having a good match and a good performance; he wanted to win this. There have been a few shocks and this could have been the biggest one of all."