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O'Sullivan plays down chances
Reigning world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan played down his hopes of sweeping to a fifth UK Championship title despite beating Scotland's Marcus Campbell to reach the last 16.
The 'Rocket' struggled before the mid-session interval and lost frame two in unusual fashion, a long battle on the black ending when he failed to make contact with it.
The players went in locked at 2-2 but O'Sullivan played much better thereafter, breaks of 108, 100 and 54 seeing him to a 6-2 victory.
O'Sullivan said: "There's still a long way to go - hopefully!
"There are so many good players in this event. The danger is everyone thinking me, Ding and Neil are the hot favourites. I believe the winner could come from someone who's just about coming into form now.
"I'm not writing myself off, otherwise there's no point being here, I might as well pack up and throw a sicknote in.
"And I'm not writing off Ding's or Neil's chances, I'm just saying that the guys who have maybe not been getting the results, it's probably only a matter of time before they have their good spell."
Campbell, though, said of the reigning world champion: "His attitude's fantastic now and when he's like that, playing the right shots, he can make you look very ordinary."
Defending champion Mark Selby had a straightforward afternoon, dispatching Grimsby's Stuart Carrington 6-0.
After a scrappy start, successive breaks of 69 and a 96 saw Selby through to a clash with Graeme Dott.
And the Leicester player said: "I didn't really perform great but I finished the match off well.
"Playing Graeme tomorrow, I can't get off to a start like that. I've played him quite a few times and we've always had close games and gruelling matches - I'm sure tomorrow will be no different."
Ding Junhui's progress was almost as comfortable, the Chinese player beating Fergal O'Brien 6-1 to maintain his push for a fourth successive ranking title.
Ding, who struggled with his cue-ball control in the first two rounds, said: "The side table has a new cloth put on so I felt better, more confident in the black-ball area."
Ding won this title in 2005 and 2009 and is on pace to repeat the four-year cycle, but continuing his current hot streak would mean more to the world number three.
Stephen Hendry was the last player to win four ranking titles consecutively, and Ding said: "That's the legend, no-one has done that since he did it so... I'll try!"
World number one Neil Robertson kicked off his 6-3 win over China's Li Hang with the highest break of the tournament so far, 141.
And the Australian then vowed to "destroy" close friend Joe Perry in the last 16.
"He's still playing for his Masters spot so there's probably a little bit of added pressure on him there," said Robertson.
He added with a smile: "I just have to forget about friendship and everything and just try to demolish him, which I did in Australia. I just have to destroy him."
One of the remaining Masters places was wrapped up in the morning session as Robert Milkins, O'Sullivan's next opponent, beat Matthew Stevens 6-2 with breaks of 105, 84, 63, 75 and 77.
The ranking points gained from his run to the last 16 will lift the Gloucester player to 13th in the world.
The top 15 after this week qualify in addition to world champion O'Sullivan and, with only Graeme Dott and Perry able to overtake him, Milkins' place at Alexandra Palace next month is assured.
He said: "I've never played there and it's always been one of my aims to get there. I'm really looking forward to that now."
Perry leads Dott by 855 points in the last qualifying spot and must reach the same round as the Scot to stay ahead, while Mark Davis is in their sights should Dott reach the final or Perry the semis.
Ricky Walden could also be vulnerable should he lose to Ding, having ended Mark Williams' hopes in a topsy-turvy 6-5 win.
Walden came from 3-1 down to lead 5-3 and though Williams levelled again at 5-5, Walden finished with a 137.
Mark Allen saw off Michael Holt in another match that went the distance.
The 12th seed from Northern Ireland led 3-0 and 5-3 but was pegged back on each occasion, Holt making a 103 to set up a decider.
But Allen, who had earlier hit a 113 break, made 56 to get over the line.
Ireland's David Morris ended the dream run of Sheffield amateur Mitchell Travis with a 6-1 win featuring breaks of 71 and 76.
Stephen Maguire became the first man into quarter-finals after a 6-3 win over John Higgins.
The two good friends and fellow Scots met in the last 16 and, for the fifth time in succession, it was Maguire who won their personal battle.
A break of 90 won Maguire the opening frame but he potted two unwanted reds, with no colours available, to lose the next.
A 49 put him back in front but Higgins, who on Monday labelled his form "continually s***" and was again out of sorts, drew level with a 47.
Maguire made 59 and a tournament-high 142 in the first two frames back and played a great swerve shot for the red that put the next beyond doubt.
Higgins pulled one back with a 77 but could not find a way back as Maguire took the next with a 65.
Maguire said: "It's a great win, any time you beat John Higgins is a proud moment."