WORLD No 8 Shaun Murphy needs one more frame to reach his third Crucible final after blowing away Barry Hawkins yesterday to claim a 16-8 lead.
But the identity of his opponent remains anyone’s guess with Stuart Bingham leading Judd Trump 9-7 in the other semi-final.
Resuming in the morning with a 6-2 lead, Murphy was absolutely imperious in extending his advantage to ten frames.
The Magician proved as ruthless as Hawkins was wasteful, making two centuries in the process of putting himself within touching distance of a first World Snooker Championship final since 2009.
The writing was seemingly on the wall and Murphy was among the balls instantly, taking the opening frame with breaks of 38 and 26 to move within three of the victory line. Hawkins was now in danger of suffering the heaviest ever defeat in a Crucible semi-final – that honour lies with seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry who lost 17-4 to old foe Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2004.
But the 36-year-old reeled off a timely break of 103, greeted with raucous cheers from the packed crowd desperate to see a contest rather than a procession for Murphy.
He got his fifth frame on the board instantly with a break of 57 and then thoughts turned to the most unlikely of comebacks with a clearance of 104.
Though Murphy remained in the driving seat he was stuck in second gear and Hawkins continued to carry the fight by taking the fourth frame in a row.
Murphy has previous in this situation having lost 19 tournament semi-finals since turning professional in 1998, aged 15.
A nerve-settling 90 was exactly what was required in frame 22 to clip the Hawk’s wings and hand the reigning Masters champion the momentum once more. And he followed up with a clearance of 106 to go one frame away from a third Crucible final. But Hawkins at least took the contest to a final session with an admirable break of 76 to leave the score at 16-8.
Trump trailed 5-3 from Thursday’s opening session, but will be somewhat relieved with the score at 9-7 after finding Bingham in ominous form on Friday afternoon.
Bingham nabbed the 26-minute opener with a break of 52. But Trump found his groove in frame ten, making his 80th century of the season, despite the black being out of commission throughout, to reduce the arrears to 6-4.
Bingham got in first next up and looked set to regain his three-frame advantage. But after missing a straightforward red into the corner on 46, Trump nicked the frame with a 63.
The world No 10 looked to be cruising to a 7-5 advantage, but lost position on the frame-clinching red and was forced to stop on 67. But Trump miscued his safety, a double kiss as he attempted to bring the white back to the baulk end proved his undoing and Bingham accepted his second chance to go 7-5 up.
After the interval, a ten-minute safety exchange ensued before a ball was finally potted when Bingham cut a red into the middle. He went on to make a break of 54, before losing position on the pink to let his opponent back in. Trump clawed his way back to within 13 points, but missed a red down the rail and Bingham finished him off.
Bingham was in early with a break of 35 to leave Trump squirming in this chair at the start of frame 14. And though the Juddernaut’s reply stopped on 45 when he saw the penultimate red rattle the jaws, he dug deep to get over the line in a tense finale. The penultimate frame was Bingham’s with a break of 85, but Trump ensured he will sleep a little easier with an entertaining 64.
l British Eurosport is the Home of Snooker, showing 19 tournaments per season including the World Championship, UK Championship the Masters and all other ranking events. Available on Sky, Virgin Media & BT TV or online/mobile via eurosportplayer.com #eurosportsnooker