Ronnie O'Sullivan has made a golden career out of playing sexy snooker, but the six-times defending world champion admits he's happy to win ugly these days after securing a World Grand Prix semi-final with Judd Trump behind closed doors in Milton Keynes.
O'Sullivan has battled his way to the last four of the tournament with wins over Ali Carter, Barry Hawkins and Kyren Wilson without ever finding top gear.
He thumped Wilson 18-8 in the world final in August, but was trailing 3-2 and toiling until his opponent somehow managed to go in off the pink holding a 13-point lead with only pink and black on the table.
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"I think he went for the pink trying to play safe, but nothing surprises me. As Jimmy (White) says, when you are in Shredsville, anything can happen to you," said the world number three.
O'Sullivan slotted the final two balls to restore parity at 3-3 before knocking in 86 for a 4-3 lead – and progressing to make an expert long pot on the final red in the eighth frame on his way to seeing out the match.
O'Sullivan also contributed 66 and 84 as he won the final four frames from 3-1 behind with his opponent compiling 97 and 75 in establishing an early two-frame advantage before the mid-session interval brought a change in the narrative.
"I don't think Kyren started off great. I just missed more and he put a couple of breaks together to win frames," said the Essex man. "We both can play so much better than that, but you can only do what you've got on the day. Sometimes you don't play to the high standards you'd like to.
"I keep going on about the cue action, but it has been non-existent since the Northern Ireland Open. I've just been grafting it out."
"I've come to accept I have to pick my battles sometimes," added O'Sullivan, who lost 9-7 to Trump in the final of the Northern Ireland Open last month.
"If it comes easy, it's nice to dig deep, but if it doesn't probably better off just not driving yourself too crazy trying to get a victory when the cue action is not there."
He added: "I thought I'm better off practising less and using the tournaments more because I'm more used to the conditions."
Despite both men battling hard for victory, there was time for a light-hearted moment with O'Sullivan's time-served Casio watch producing a talking point.
"It's a Casio. A £9.99 Casio that goes off every hour. I think Kyren was on a shot and it got to nine o'clock and it bleeped," he explained.
"He came up to me and said can you put it on pause. I said 'it's a £9.99 watch mate, I don't think it has the ability to do that' so I took it off and gave it to the scorer.
"I was lost without my Casio. I like to time my intervals at the toilet so I'm back in time."
O'Sullivan will face Trump – a 5-2 winner against Martin Gould in the quarter-finals – over the best-of-11 frames on Friday night a week after losing the Scottish Open final 9-3 to old rival Mark Selby. He continues to challenge for the sport's top prizes on the cusp of his 29th year as a professional.
Unlike in his formative years, O'Sullivan is happier with the victories than perfection and has yet to lose a semi-final to Trump in six meetings.
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"Judd seems to be in the semi-finals and final of every tournament he plays in," he said. "For me, it's a good opportunity. I really enjoyed the match we played in the Northern Irish Open final. We both played really good stuff and I'd like to play something like that tomorrow.
"I enjoy the games against Judd because he plays the game the way I think it should be played.
"You've got to bring your A game. You have to raise your game to have a chance to beat Judd because he's playing at such a high level."
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Northern Ireland Open
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