Shaun Murphy won an high quality contest 6-4 against Stephen Maguire to set up a semi-final meeting with Mark Allen at the Dafabet Masters.
Murphy recovered an early 2-0 deficit and finished the match strongly by taking the last the two frames of an intriguing tussle. Since snooker’s biggest invitation event moved to Alexandra Palace he has a fine record, reaching the semi-finals four years in a row, and the final in 2012. Murphy still need the Masters title to complete the Triple Crown and is determined to be last man standing on Sunday night and claim the £200,000 top prize.
Maguire, whose recent return to form has seen him reach the semi-finals of the UK Championship and win the Lisbon Open, started brilliantly with a 137 total clearance in the opening frame. He then went 2-0 up, aided by a run of 67. Murphy seized the momentum with a break of 103 in the third, and runs of 40 and 43 in the next saw them level at the interval.
Maguire’s 63 put him 3-2 ahead, and he had chances in each of the next two frames but, crucially, couldn’t capitalise. Murphy nicked the sixth on the colours and made a cool clearance from the last red in the seventh after his opponent had left him a chance when escaping from a snooker.
Glasgow’s Maguire made a 75 to get back to 4-4, but scored just nine points in the last two frames. Murphy’s 103 put him 5-4 ahead, and he dominated the next with three scoring visits to secure his place in the last four.
Manchester-based Murphy, who won four tournaments in 2014, said: “It was a very high quality match, as I expected playing someone of Stephen’s class. We’ve been playing those kind of matches since we were juniors. There weren’t many unforced errors. I’ve experienced playing well and losing, that happens a lot in snooker now and it’s part of sport.
“Every match here could be a final and it will be tough against Mark Allen. The only player who seems to win easily here is O’Sullivan, he sails through matches. Everyone else is playing people on a similar level. I didn’t see Mark play today because I was practising, but what happened today doesn’t matter because we will start tomorrow fresh.
“I feel that I’m scoring heavily when I get chances and I’ve been doing that for a year now. I won four titles and made three 147s last year and you don’t do that if you’re not scoring. But as John Parrott said today, you can play as well as you like, it’s winning that matters. The BBC events have a different feel, we have the sense that the nation is watching. But the pressure you feel during a match is still the same. These tournaments just mean a bit more – there’s more history attached.
“There’s very little that beats the atmosphere here. I don’t know whether it’s the venue or the London crowd, but I think it’s only the World Championship final that comes anywhere near the atmosphere of a full Ally Pally. The crowds have been fantastic.”