'An artist' – Did Ronnie O'Sullivan make the greatest break in World Championship history at the Crucible?
Ronnie O'Sullivan was "lethal" among the balls, according to John Higgins, who was forced to sit and admire his old rival during a 17-11 defeat in their World Championship semi-final. O'Sullivan produced some marvellous breaks, but the best run came in the 18th frame with a miraculous run of 82. Stream the 2022 World Championship and more top snooker action live and on-demand on discovery+
'I've never seen him with this intensity' - O'Sullivan hits 10th Crucible century of 2022
"He maybe broke down when he didn't get a split on the pack a few times, but he was absolutely lethal."
The world no. 1 compiled glorious breaks of 134, 121, 116, 107, 101, 99, 91, 83, 73, 70, 70, 67, 55, 55, 54 and 54 to maintain his quest for a record-equalling seventh world title in Sheffield, but the finest run of the semi-final was the 82 constructed in the 18th frame on Saturday morning.
With O'Sullivan only 10-7 clear and trailing 32-22 in a taut tactical juncture of the contest, the six-time champion was faced with the prospect of a tricky long red and eight of the reds apparently out of commission, bunched at the right hand side at the top end of the table.
He embarked upon a quite remarkable sequence of pots in clearing up to the black with an astonishing run that had to be seen to be believed in restoring his four-frame advantage from a frame lasting over 35 minutes and mired in safety play.
It was perhaps fitting that O'Sullivan's miraculous clearance at the 46th World Championship came four decades after 'The People's Champion' Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins compiled his iconic 69 in his 16-15 win over Jimmy 'Whirlwind' White in the 1982 semi-finals.
Higgins had trailed 15-14 and 59-0 before rescuing the match with an audacious compilation of do-or-die pots in the penultimate frame before a closing 59 saw the Northern Irishman secure a final place ahead of lifting a second world title (18-15) against Ray Reardon.
O'Sullivan's 82 rivals the 92 he produced in the seventh frame of his 18-11 win against Ali Carter in the world final a decade ago – an effort he has dubbed his "best ever break" on his way to a fourth triumph in 2012 – but was arguably even more impressive for technical difficulty.
'It was mental!' - O'Sullivan talks through his record-breaking 147 at Crucible in 1997
While his 147 constructed in five minutes and eight seconds at the 1997 World Championship transcends snooker, it was only achievable because all the reds were in the open to cherry pick.
It is much more difficult to discover a winning formula when the odds are stacked against you. Yet somehow O'Sullivan, the snooker GOAT, continues to endure.