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Ronnie O'Sullivan has dismissed Ali Carter's claims he apologised for their infamous World Championship shoulder barge bust-up ahead of an engrossing Northern Ireland Open semi-final in Milton Keynes.

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Carter won a bitter grudge match against his Essex rival 13-9 in the second round in 2018 with both men bumping into each other at the table during the final session as tempers threatened to reach boiling point at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

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It remains Carter's only victory over O'Sullivan at the World Championship with the six-times champion enjoying wins in the 2008 (18-8) and 2012 (18-11) finals – and a 13-8 triumph in the last 16 in 2013 respectively.

Carter sealed his place in the last four of the Northern Ireland Open with a 5-3 win over Kurt Maflin while O'Sullivan later overcame UK champion Ding Junhui in his quarter-final behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena. Both men recovered from 2-0 behind in the last eight to set up their first clash in over two years over the best of 11 frames.

"I came here with zero confidence, hardly won a match all year, didn't particularly want to be here, in the nicest possible way," said world number 19 Carter. "Life's tough at the moment for everyone.

"And if you come away and you are at a low ebb or whatever, it is easy to get yourself in a rut and get yourself in a big black hole. I gave myself a good talking to and said 'come on, you've got to turn this round'."

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O'Sullivan described Carter as "Mr Angry" during the Crucible altercation, but this year's Masters finalist Carter claims their infamous joust was "a bit of fun" after the duo were warned by referee Paul Collier to behave.

"To be in the semi-finals is great. Ronnie apologised to me twice afterwards. In the UK Championships in the December afterwards, he said sorry about that," admitted Carter.

"I had said 'no worries'. In the heat of the moment, it was a bit of fun and it got a lot of people talking and put the spotlight on snooker. Me and Ronnie are both from Essex, we have a lot of history. He's beat me in two world finals so it was nice thankfully to get one over on him on the big stage.

"Shame it wasn't in the final."

O'Sullivan is bewildered by that version of events while also moving to clear up Mark Allen's recent claims he apologised after their argument during the Champion of Champions quarter-finals which Allen won 6-3 on his way to lifting the invitational event earlier this month.

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O'Sullivan felt Allen was moving on the line of his shot and told him to sit in his seat as tensions between the pair began to overheat during the ninth and final frame of the match with Allen later accusing him of "trying to bully people".

O'Sullivan refutes claims he admitted he was in the wrong, but said he did not want any bad blood with his green baize rivals in the future.

"I didn't apologise to Ali and I didn't apologise to Mark Allen either," insisted O'Sullivan. "I just said, 'let's move on'. Let's not hold any grudges, it is what is it.

"I still feel I was in the right on both occasions and so that apology they say that I said was definitely not an apology.

"It was more like, 'let's just move on'. It was what it was, I've got to see you and you've got to see me at tournaments. So we can say hello to each other. We're not boxers, we're not enemies.

"It's just a game of sticks and balls. I'm happy with my life, you are happy with your life. Let's just be friends."

O'Sullivan confronts Carter from 1pm (GMT) on Eurosport with world number one and defending champion Judd Trump facing world number 67 David Grace in the second semi-final at 7pm.

Trump has defeated O'Sullivan 9-7 in the past two Northern Ireland Open finals with the game's top two ranked players on course to clash for a third successive year in the final.

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