Shaun Murphy produced a marvellous spell of snooker to beat Mark Allen 6-2 and set up a final clash with Neil Robertson at the Dafabet Masters.
Murphy recovered from the loss of the first two frames to reel off six in a row with a display of exquisite break-building. He goes through to meet Australia’s Robertson for a best-of-19 frame battle on Sunday, with the winner to collect the trophy and £200,000 top prize.
It’s a repeat of the 2012 Masters final, which Robertson won 10-6, and this time Murphy hopes he’ll be the last man standing. Victory would make him the tenth player in snooker history to win all three Triple Crown events, having captured the World Championship in 2005 and the UK Championship in 2008.
Manchester-based Murphy had an excellent year in 2014, winning three European Tour events as well as the Haikou World Open, and making three 147s. Improved scoring has been the key to his improvement, and that has been in evidence again this week, with three centuries and seven more breaks over 50 in the 18 frames he has won.
Northern Ireland’s Allen was aiming to reach his first Masters final and made a promising start with runs of 83 and 62 to win the first two frames. But a missed blue to a baulk corner from the Northern Irishman in the third frame proved the turning point. Murphy took it with a break of 42, then swept through the next four frames in just 46 minutes with contributions of 80, 83, 76 and 102.
A run of 60 put Murphy in charge of frame eight, and when Allen missed a difficult penultimate red, his chance was gone.
“I’m very proud of myself because I’ve worked very hard for the past year or two and I’m seeing the results now, after a few absent years” said Murphy. “I sat in my chair at 2-0 down and just told myself to reboot, start again and keep going because I hadn’t done much wrong and there was still a long way to go. I knew I was hitting the ball well.
“There’s a sense of achievement to get to the final, but the job is only half done. I’ve got to the stage in my career where it’s more about personal performance, about going out there and seeing if the things I’m working on come out in a match. It’s not about revenge for three years ago because we’re all mates on tour and we all beat each other, week in and week out. We’ll both give it everything.
“I didn’t invent the Triple Crown, you guys (the media) did. You’ve set the bar for us and I’ve had to watch as Neil and Mark Selby and a few others have done it. All I’ve done is give myself an opportunity to get you all to be quiet about it.
“Neil is world number one, he’s won all of these events before, he’s beaten Ronnie O’Sullivan today and I would make him massive favourite. My head to head record against him is poor, he has beaten me comfortably on many occasions. But I will try my hardest, and I wouldn’t want to face me, running at me.
“This time last year I was talking about going off and doing something else, at a very low point in my life. Now I’ve fixed that with hard work and I’m confident in my game. There are players who only enjoy snooker if they win. I’m a traditionalist, I feel lucky to be a professional snooker player, and if I wasn’t in the final I’d be watching it. I’ll go out tomorrow and enjoy every second of it, win or lose.”
Allen said: “After I missed the blue in the third frame, Shaun froze me out and any chances I got weren’t clear cut. My safety and long potting were not great and against the top players that’s what you have to rely on. I felt better today than I did yesterday against Joe Perry so I’m not too down on myself. It’s disappointing to lose in a big semi-final but all credit to Shaun because he played very well. Hopefully I can get a couple of tournament wins before the World Championship because I fancy my chances.”