Shaun Murphy survived a Mark Allen fightback to win 9-6 and reach the final of the International Championship in Daqing.
2005 World Champion Murphy faces current Crucible king Judd Trump in tomorrow’s final, where the pair will do battle over the best of 19 frames for the £175,000 top prize.
It will be Murphy’s first appearance in a ranking final since losing the title match at the Scottish Open back in December against today’s opponent Allen by a 9-7 scoreline.
This week’s impressive run has been much needed for Murphy, who had been under threat of falling out of the top 16 after struggling to nine first round exits last season. His performance in Daqing has solidified his position in the world rankings and ensured qualification for the upcoming Shanghai Masters, with the cut off at the end of this week’s event.
Defending champion Allen lifted the title last year with a 10-5 defeat of Neil Robertson in the final. The Northern Irishman will have to settle for a semi-final exit this time around.
Murphy had put himself in a strong position after a fine first session display had him 6-2 up coming into this evening. However, Allen had given himself hope by claiming the final two frames of the session, having trailed 6-0.
As they got back underway, Murphy extended his lead to 7-2 by taking a tense ninth frame on the colours. From that point Allen began to ramp up the pressure. He claimed two on the bounce to close within three at 7-4.
Murphy then moved one from victory. However, a fine contribution of 94 kept Allen in the contest and made the score 8-5.
A dramatic 14th frame then came down to the pink. Murphy broke down on a run of 52 after he failed to get good position on the second last ball. A safety battle ensued and eventually Murphy left the pink at Allen’s mercy. He deposited it and the black to make it 8-6.
Murphy then finally got himself over the line thanks to a break of 66 which put the seal on his 9-6 victory.
“When you are low on confidence, like I am, and when you have been in the situation I have been in for the last 12 months by losing games, these are big matches,” said Murphy, who is celebrating his 37th birthday today. “Mark is a class player and never gives in. A lot of players let their head go down at 6-0. I knew that lead wasn’t enough. I just tried to carry on in the same way tonight. Getting over that line when it matters isn’t easy.
“I’ve got the World Champion and world number one next, who must be floating on air at the moment. I remember being World Champion myself, although it was a long time ago. You just feel completely invincible. I have to try to find a way. If I play like I did in the first half of today’s game I will be in with a chance. But I will have to bring my A game tomorrow.”
Allen said: “I’m really disappointed with how I played. I just didn’t turn up really. I was hanging on and it got to the point where I dragged Shaun down a bit. He was the much better player all day. In particular the first three frames, where he potted three long reds and made three breaks. That turned out to be the difference at 9-6.”