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.

World number 43 Matthew Stevens will be joining Ding in the last 16 after beating the three-time Championship winner Mark Selby.

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.

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.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan (right) and Ding Junhui shake hands after their last-16 clash
Ronnie O’Sullivan (right) and Ding Junhui shake hands after their last-16 clash (Nigel French/PA)

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.”

Welshman Stevens is also in the last 16 after he beat Mark Selby, a three-time UK Championship winner.

Stevens won 6-5 in the early hours of Friday morning and next faces Stephen Maguire, who beat Michael White 6-4.