Ronnie O'Sullivan being made to work for sixth World Snooker Championship crown
Ronnie O'Sullivan has branded Mark Selby both as "the torturer" and "a predator" and had little doubt he was in for a gruelling test in the final of the Dafabet World Championship at the Crucible.
Selby – who trails O'Sullivan 10-7 in the first to 18 clash going into the concluding day – has the prey of the World Championship trophy, the only major prize in snooker he has yet to claim, in his crosshairs.
And were it not for a shocking missed black in the eighth frame, he would have shared the spoils from a session O'Sullivan briefly looked like sprinting away with.
The two-day final – the winner picks up £300,000 – was shaping into a battle that would be defined by Selby's ability to counter-attack the multi-pronged threat posed by a man chasing his sixth world title.
When Selby dropped the opening three frames yesterday, his prospects looked bleak, but by the session's close he was back to 5-3 adrift – and the 30-year-old was kicking himself the match was not all square.
With the final frame of the afternoon at his mercy after fluking the last red, Selby proceeded to blunder on the black and could only smile as he returned to his seat, knowing O'Sullivan would mop up. Duly he did.
O'Sullivan's "torturer" verdict of the Leicester cueman emerged in his book 'Running' last year, and he added the "predator" tag on Friday.
Selby's stubborn table nature can grind with the man who thrives on fluency, and it is key to his title prospects.
It was evident in his ability to slow down the 38-year-old after his hour in full flight yesterday.
And it means that finally, after Shaun Murphy and then Barry Hawkins folded to quarter-final and semi-final defeats against O'Sullivan, the defending champion has a serious contest.
Ken Doherty, Dublin's 1997 world champion, expects Selby to be able to put O'Sullivan through a battle of wits.
"He's not going to out-pot him, he's not going to out-break-build him, but he can get to him," Doherty said.
"But how crucial will that black prove to be?"
Selby is convinced he can duke it out with O'Sullivan.
"I know I'm up against it. Ronnie's probably the best player to have played the game," said Selby.
But he warned: "If I take my chances, I know I can win. I'm a lot more confident now."