Ronnie O’Sullivan keen to enjoy his run at the Crucible

Ronnie O’Sullivan is determined to be smiling come Sunday night when he hopes to regain his Crucible crown.

Ronnie O'Sullivan leads Mark Selby 5-3 in their semi-final match after the first session.

The 44-year-old leads Mark Selby 5-3 – the pair resume their Betfred World Championship semi-final meeting this afternoon – looking to secure his sixth world title. That would just be one shy of Stephen Hendry’s record haul of seven.

And while O’Sullivan would always downplay any such feat, the five-time world champion is eager to stay positive as he targets a first Crucible title since 2013.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“I refuse to play any match and not find a way of enjoying it,” said O’Sullivan, competing in a record-equalling 12th Crucible semi-final. Cerainly, a content O’Sullivan is a formidable opponent.

“I try to play every game on my terms, and if that means I don’t win as many matches it doesn’t matter. The minute you stop enjoying the game is when you should stop playing, especially at my age.

“Longevity comes when you can find enjoyment in what you are doing.

“Mark Selby and I have had a lot of finals and big matches. We have both done well in the biggest tournaments.

“If I can find some control in my long game, manage to manipulate the ball and keep it on line, that will give me more confidence to give him a game.”

O’Sullivan – winner of 36 ranking titles – last reached the final in Sheffield in 2014, but lost to Selby 18-14.

Three-time champion Selby, 37, impressed in his quarter-final win over Neil Robertson, but the world No 7 struggled in the opening exchanges last night as O’Sullivan opened up a 3-1 interval lead. A low-scoring opening, O’Sullivan chipped in with modest breaks of 59 and 85.

A missed green proved costly for Selby in frame five, as breaks of 51 and 79 made it 4-1.

If the Leicester potter needed any good omens, he actually trailed 10-5 to O’Sullivan in that 2014 final, and in this best-of-33 frames contest – spread over four sessions – there was still plenty of time to recover.

Selby did drag a frame back, but lost a safety battle in frame seven as O’Sullivan chiselled a 58 break to go 5-3 ahead.

O’Sullivan has admitted he has enjoyed playing behind-closed-doors – without the circus and distractions which usually accompany him on his annual visit to the Crucible – and his relaxed demeanor had carried over onto the table.

But it was Selby – whose highest break of the evening was just 39 – who claimed the final frame of the night, having to rely on his safety play to cut the deficit to just two frames.

Earlier, Anthony McGill moved closer to a first World Championship final by opening up a 6-2 lead in the opening session of his semi-final clash with eighth seed Kyren Wilson.

Wilson was almost unrecognisable from the player who polished off defending champion Judd Trump on Tuesday as a series of missed pots and safety errors gifted qualifier McGill the chance to continue his dream run in the tournament.

The 29-year-old McGill made his Crucible debut in 2015, but now stands a strong chance of joining Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Graeme Dott as the only Scottish finalists in the Crucible era.

Wilson was slow to get out of the blocks and McGill instantly seized advantage with breaks of 83 and 78 respectively.

Even when Wilson got his chance he all too frequently missed simple pots or ran out of position, a mistake on the green in the third frame ending a break of 55 and allowing McGill to step in and extend his lead.

Wilson belatedly got a frame on the board and although McGill took the next two to lead 5-1, a simple missed blue in the seventh proved the difference between the Scot going further ahead and Wilson coolly clearing the colours to reduce his arrears to 5-2.

However, any hope of it being a turning point for Wilson were dashed as McGill polished off a highly satisfactory session from his perspective with a break of 92. The duo resume on Thursday morning.