RONNIE O’SULLIVAN’s reign as snooker world champion is OVER – as steely Scot Anthony McGill answered the prayers of a fellow countryman.
McGill, the 50-1 tournament outsider, produced the performance of his life to knock out the Rocket 13-12 in the Last 16 of the Betfred World Snooker Championship.
O’Sullivan, 45, arrived in Sheffield with realistic dreams of finally equalling Stephen Hendry’s 22-year-old record of seven Crucible wins.
Yet having got so close to Hendry that historic tally will remain unreachable for another year at least as McGill booked his spot in a second successive quarter-final.
This has completely thrown open the top half of the draw and McGill will face Stuart Bingham or Jamie Jones over 25 frames in the last eight on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Like in the first round, O’Sullivan complained about the cold conditions in the arena and requested a cup of hot water to warm his hands.
Then the unpredictable potter had the crowd in stitches when he played a strange break-off in frame nine.
Taking a leaf out of Mark Williams’s book, having probably read the SunSport report earlier that day, he hit the cue-ball against the bottom cushion and nestled it against the pack of reds.
It is a cheeky and bizarre tactic – some might even call it is gamesmanship – and punters watching table one could not help but giggle.
Dennis Taylor, the 1985 world champion, was aghast and could not believe his eyes.
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The Northern Irishman said: “Well that’s a strange break-off. Has he been having lessons off Mark?”
It wasn’t a one-off either as O’Sullivan did the break-off throughout both sessions.
If it was some form of mind game or an attempt to unsettle last year’s semi-finalist in the morning, then it did not work as McGill was laser sharp with his potting.
This was not the mismatch that many had predicted given O’Sullivan had won all six of their previous encounters.
The shaven-headed Scot went into the final session 10-6 up thanks to breaks of 126, 89 and 105, betraying no signs of nerves or pressure amid the illustrious surroundings.
The Tartan Warrior hardly had any table time in the evening and was a helpless bystander as O’Sullivan reeled off SIX frames in a row.
It looked as though O’Sullivan was going to complete an astonishing comeback and reach a record 20th quarter-final.
But a stunning break of 136 levelled it up at 12-12 and meant it all went down to the finale.
Last August, McGill lost a bonkers hour-long final-frame decider against Kyren Wilson, which would have put him in the final against O’Sullivan.
This time, after O’Sullivan missed a red at 42-0, McGill responded with a 85 break to cause the surprise result.
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