Ronnie O’Sullivan had a lengthy debate with referee Rob Spencer during his return to action at the Championship League in Leicester on Tuesday.
The six-times world champion was called for a push shot during the first frame of his clash with Saqib Nasir, at which point he said: “Are you having a laugh?”
World number 22 Tom Ford was on commentary at a sweltering Morningside Arena, and he said: “I am not sure that was a push as if it was a push the white would have gone straight through, but he played it at an angle.”
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O’Sullivan questioned the decision to call a push shot on what was an amazing pot on the blue, as he said: “I am the most honest snooker player and I never try to cheat.”
Spencer was unmoved, saying he saw it as a push and called it as such.
It did not prove costly as O’Sullivan went on to knock in audacious pots on the blue and pink to seal the frame.
In backing up his win over Ian Burns in his opening match of Group 32, O’Sullivan moved on to six points from two games with another 3-0 win over Nasir before a 2-2 draw with Mark Joyce was enough to see him top Group 32 on seven points and qualify for the last 32.
It was a demonstration in attacking snooker from O’Sullivan as he refused to play any safety shots for last swathes of the three matches, while he adopted the debatable Mark Williams break-off shot.
Joyce threatened an upset when taking the opening frame courtesy of a break of 95, but O’Sullivan took the second and third.
The final frame went to Joyce, which ensured he took second place in the pool.
Fergal O’Brien beat Mark Lloyd in his final game to pinch top spot in Group 6 from Michael Holt.
Holt topped the group heading into the final match, and only a 3-0 win would have been enough for O’Brien to snatch the qualification spot.
“I am absolutely delighted,” said O’Brien. “Drawing the first two games, you are relying on other results but I knew I had to win 3-0 in the last match. I was grateful for the chance but having to win 3-0 was a lot of pressure.
“You put in a long day and to fall a frame short would be disappointing. Last season wasn’t so great so I need as many wins as I can get.
I felt happy enough how I was playing coming here and I started off well with a century in the first match. It adds to it that the tournament has ranking points and a place in the Champion of Champions. I’ve done my job today, I’m in the hat for the next round, and we’ll go from there.
It was not vintage snooker from the Irish veteran, but he was able to fall over the line.
The outcome was a bitter pill to swallow for Holt, as he went unbeaten through the pool and finished level with O’Brien on seven frames won, four lost - after the pair drew 2-2.
With the pair locked together, O’Brien progressed by virtue of having the highest break of the two on the day - his 100 against Andrew Higginson proving decisive.
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