Neil Robertson made a crucial clearance in the deciding frame to beat Shaun Murphy 5-4 and reach the semi-finals of the Wuxi Classic.
Murphy looked set for a place in the last four of the season’s first ranking event until he missed a red on a break of 49, leading 65-25, in the deciding frame. Defending champion Robertson held his nerve with a cool 43 clearance to book a match with Barry Hawkins on Saturday and stay in the hunt for the £85,000 top prize.
Australia’s Robertson had earlier led 3-1, before Murphy hit back to win three frames in a row with a top break of 77. Robertson responded with a 95 – the highest break of the match – to level the tie before clinching victory.
“It wasn’t the greatest match, playing conditions were tough,” said Robertson. “I missed a red to the middle in the last frame then it looked as if Shaun was going to win. Luckily for me he missed as well and I held myself together to make a really good clearance. The last black was a horrible shot under pressure. It’s nice so early in the season to make a clearance like that. I’m delighted with the win.
“Barry has been playing very well this week. I haven’t been close to my best so the positive thing is that I can improve a lot. Barry won the Players Championship, got to the semis at the Crucible and now he’s in the semis here so he has been very consistent. Based on how we have both played this week he is favourite, but I’ll be out there doing my best. I’ve made a good defence of my title so far and I’d love to keep it going.”
Hawkins was also taken to the wire, by Marco Fu, before emerging a 5-4 winner. The first four frames were shared, Hawkins making a 64 in the third before Fu levelled with a 100 in the fourth. Hong Kong’s Fu made 61 in the next before Hawkins cleared superbly with 73, and the Englishman then went 4-2 up with a run of 70. Fu cleared from the last red to steal the seventh frame and made a 59 in the next for 4-4. And he led 31-0 in the decider, but Hawkins seized his chance with an excellent 89 to book his spot in the semis.
“It was a very good game,” said Hawkins. “There were a couple of frames where I made good clearances and that made the difference. We both scored heavily and there weren’t many balls missed. I’m really pleased with my form. Over the last two years I’ve been consistent, I’ve had confidence and I’ve won a couple of tournaments. I have more self belief and I’m used to being in the later stages of tournaments. It would be great to win a trophy this early in the season.”