By Owen Phillips
BBC Sport at the York Barbican
|Betway UK Championship|
|Venue: York Barbican Dates: 26 November-8 December|
|Coverage: Watch live across BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, Connected TV, the BBC Sport website and mobile app from 30 November|
Reigning champion Ronnie O’Sullivan dropped his first frames in this year’s UK Championship but was still a convincing 6-2 winner in his third-round tie against Noppon Saengkham.
O’Sullivan, who faces Ding Junhui in the last 16, led an attacking match 3-1 with a rapid break of 76 the highlight.
The world number two took two of the next three and made sure of victory by pinching a scrappy eighth frame.
But O’Sullivan said he was struggling with “a really, really bad foot”.
“I hope I am OK to play,” the 43-year-old seven-time UK champion told BBC Sport. “It’s an old running injury.
“I couldn’t stop running forever so I got back to running four or five weeks ago and it’s just really sore. I have to manage it. I don’t want to pull out so will just have to run on the days I am not playing.”
O’Sullivan grimaced on a couple of occasions, but it did not seem to affect him despite not being at his fluent best in beating his Thai opponent in a match almost devoid of safety play.
The Rocket failed to make a century, but improved throughout and got over the line with classy breaks of 97 and 65.
“It was hard to play because balls were flying everywhere,” O’Sullivan added. “If he could play position, he would be dangerous because he pots lots and lots and lots of balls and had a couple of flukes.
“You have to to just enjoy it, chuckle to yourself and hope it doesn’t go on for the whole game.”
O’Sullivan is aiming to win a record-extending eighth UK crown on Sunday, which would take him to 37 ranking titles and above Stephen Hendry to the top of the all-time list.
He said he now was relishing the chance to face Chinese superstar Ding in a mouth-watering fourth-round meeting on Thursday.
Dominant Ding rockets through
Former champion Ding, 32, looked in fine form as he swept aside Ali Carter 6-4 to reach the last 16.
The world number 16 raced into a 4-0 lead thanks to breaks 64, 104, 52 and 59.
But a trademark Carter response saw the Essex man take the next two, with stylish knocks of 100 and 85.
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Ding, who last won a ranking event more than two years ago, scored his fifth break of more than 50 to move to within one of victory, which – despite Carter taking the next two – he managed to secure in frame 10 with his second ton.
“I played really well. I made some big breaks,” Ding said. “I am really happy and played well under pressure and put him under pressure.”
The 2004 winner Stephen Maguire won an all-Scottish encounter 6-2 against Graeme Dott, while Liang Wenbo edged past Eden Sharav.
The evening session sees two-time winner Mark Selby as the headline act when he takes on fellow Englishman Martin O’Donnell.
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