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Ronnie O’Sullivan fought back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Ding Junhui on Friday night, winning 5-2 to set up a semi-final meeting with Ali Carter at the Northern Ireland Open.

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O’Sullivan is attempting to right the wrongs of the past two years, having been beaten 9-7 by Judd Trump in both the 2018 and 2019 finals.

We could be heading for a hat-trick of showdowns between the pair after both men advanced to the last four in Milton Keynes on Friday. Trump meets David Grace in the other semi.

O'Sullivan completes win over Ding to book semi-final spot

First, O’Sullivan must overcome Carter, a man with whom he has shared bad blood in the past..

The head-to-head between O’Sullivan and Ding ahead of Friday’s match stood at 14-5 in favour of the Brit. The pair had also shared three draws.

However, it was Ding who got off to a flying start, instantly taking the opening frame with a 121 break, despite this marvellous escape from the Rocket:

If frame one was a marker for Ding, the next was a genuine warning to O’Sullivan as Ding this time showed fine break-building skills to amass 87 for a 2-0 lead.

O'Sullivan: ‘I felt useless, I felt embarrassed’

O’Sullivan needed to dig in and find a foothold in the match, which he promptly managed in the third with a gritty 58. It wasn’t vintage O’Sullivan, but it was extremely timely.

Momentum had shifted and the players entered the interval all square at 2-2 thanks to a break of 59 from O’Sullivan, although Ding will feel he should have taken the frame. An unfortunate kick had opened up the table, but an over-hit black left the world No. 10 with too much to do with the following red.

The theme continued upon resumption, Ding was among the balls, but an error allowed O’Sullivan to clear up, taking the lead for the first time in the match with a swift 59.

In the sixth, it was a simple red to middle pocket that left Ding hunched over the table. Switching seamlessly between hands, O’Sullivan moved to a 4-2 advantage, one frame from victory.

Even by this stage, O'Sullivan hadn't hit anything like top form. This was a pragmatic display from the world No. 2, capitalising on mistakes that were visibly weighing on Ding as the match went on. Where Ding needed to take more care with his shots, he was instead addressing the ball all too quickly.

The outcome of the match was predictable by now, and even more so when the Rocket found himself with the table at his mercy again in the seventh. O'Sullivan expertly opened the pack, screwing off the black to all but sign and seal his ticket to the semi-finals.

He saved his biggest break of the match for last, securing victory with a slick 79.

In the evening’s other quarter-final, David Grace overcame Yan Bingtao 5-2 to set up a last-four meeting with world No. 1 Trump.

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