MARK Selby took the final two frames of the afternoon session to draw level with Shaun Murphy in a williamhill.com UK Championship final that looked set to run close and late last night.
The pair were tied at 4-4, with a possible 11 frames to come in an evening session which began shortly after 8pm last night.
It was no surprise the final was proving keenly fought, with both men having relied on battling tendencies to last the distance at York’s Barbican Centre.
Selby came from 4-0 behind to beat Neil Robertson 6-4 in the quarter-finals, while Murphy produced the tournament’s most remarkable fightback to stun Ali Carter in their semi-final, recovering from 8-4 down to win 9-8.
The final was a best-of-19 tussle, with the close friends proving evenly matched on the baize. Murphy edged ahead after a wretched attempted escape by Selby from a safety presented an early chance to put points on the board.
Murphy then led 49-0 in the second, but he was unfortunate to pot the cue ball as well as a long red and Selby fired in a frame-clinching 54 break, which he followed with a 66 to take the next.
Fine breaks of 83 and 98 either side of the mid-session interval allowed Murphy to move 3-2 in front, and it was 4-2 after the Sale-based 30-year-old edged a scrappy sixth frame that lasted 52 minutes. Selby trimmed Murphy’s lead with a 70 break, and by taking the last of the session he ensured there would be nothing between the players when play resumed later.
There was plenty riding on the match, with Murphy seeking his first ranking title for over 18 months and Selby bidding to win his maiden UK Championship.
Selby, who will reclaim the world No 1 ranking from Judd Trump due to his run in York, has a disappointing return of just two ranking titles in his career.
Although he has also lifted the Masters trophy twice, Selby’s haul does his ability little justice, and the same could be said of Murphy’s total of four ranking titles. Early evidence last night pointed only to a close finish rather than which man would come out on top.