John Higgins defeated old rival Shaun Murphy 5-2 to seal his place in the quarter-finals of the BetVictor European Masters in Nuremberg.
Remarkably the pair hadn’t crossed cues on the World Snooker Tour for seven years prior to today. Victory for Higgins enhances his head-to-head lead over Murphy to 11-5, which includes a World Championship final win back in 2009.
Despite defeat this evening, Murphy will be able to reflect on a strong start to the campaign, having already picked up silverware at the BetVictor Championship League. Higgins is appearing for the first time this season and will hope to begin with a title, after failing to go beyond the quarter-finals of a ranking event last term.
Next up for 31-time ranking event winner Higgins is a quarter-final showdown with defending champion Kyren Wilson, who whitewashed Welshman Duane Jones 5-0.
It was 2005 Crucible king Murphy who came flying out of the traps tonight, firing in 113 to take the opener. However, Higgins responded emphatically with a break of 126 to restore parity.
Further contributions of 66 and 120 from Higgins saw him move two ahead, before he took a tight fifth frame to lead 4-1. Murphy kept himself in the contest by taking the sixth, but a frame later four-time World Champion Higgins crossed the line and wrapped up a massive victory.
Higgins said: “It was a brilliant win for me. I was nervous before the game, playing against the form player. I think just watching him in the first frame, the way he was striking the cueball and walking about spurred me on. He hits the ball like a dream. I was taking the positives from watching him and trying to add it into my game.
“Every credit to Kyren. He just seems to be at the latter stages of every tournament now. He obviously believes he is one of the best players and he is one of the best players. He is the defending champion and has won most of his games pretty easily this week. I am going to have to produce that same form again to give him a game tomorrow.”
Judd Trump secured his place in the quarter-finals with a 5-0 win over Ben Woolaston. The Ace in the Pack survived a scare earlier in the day when he rallied from 4-0 down to beat Chris Wakelin 5-4.
It was more straightforward this evening, with breaks of 78, 106 and 76 contributing to the whitewash victory. His last eight opponent will be Rotherham’s Ashley Carty, who scored a superb 5-3 defeat of Ricky Walden this evening. It is the first quarter-final appearance of Carty’s career.