Ronnie O’Sullivan’s hopes of winning a third successive UK Championship title ended with a 6-4 defeat by Ding Junhui in the last 16 in York.
On his 44th birthday, O’Sullivan recovered from 4-1 down to level at 4-4 but it was China’s Ding who won the final two frames to set up a quarter-final clash with countryman Liang Wenbo.
O’Sullivan, who has won a record seven titles at the event, did not pot a ball in the first three frames as Ding flew out of the blocks.
How has that not touched the sides? 👀
Ding Junhui has raced into a 3-0 lead over the Rocket.
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) December 5, 2019
Back-to-back centuries got the world number two back into the contest, and he insisted he was not unhappy with the result.
“I am quite happy with four frames,” O’Sullivan said on the BBC. “I was 4-1 down and he hadn’t missed a ball and I was thinking this could a 6-0 or 6-1 mauling on my birthday.
“I got it back to 4-4 and twitched a red and he played well and held himself together at the end.”
Ding has not won a ranking event in more than two years and is down at 16 in the rankings, and he celebrated a “really big win”.
“I know I played good in the last round so I was confident,” he said.
“Ronnie played fantastic but it’s a really big win for me. I am very happy. I knew his comeback was on the way. He doesn’t miss many when he is making breaks.”