Shaun Murphy celebrated his 37th birthday with a win over his close friend Mark Allen.
Shaun Murphy took control of his International Championship semi-final with defending champion Mark Allen by establishing a 6-2 advantage after the first session in Daqing.
They will play the best of 17 match to a conclusion in this evening’s session, with the winner going on to face Judd Trump in the final for the £175,000 top prize.
This afternoon’s opening exchanges threw the form book out the window in terms of how the players have fared this week.
2018 Masters winner Allen came in to this match having won 30 of the 38 frames he has contested in the event. By contrast 2005 World Champion Murphy has had his metal under pressure tested with two deciding frames and two 6-4 wins.
Despite that Englishman Murphy, who is celebrating his 37th birthday today, stormed out of the blocks to pull clear of his opponent. Breaks of 92, 76, 84, 54 and 88 helped him to establish a 6-0 advantage.
However, Northern Ireland’s Allen showed great resiliency in the final two frames of the session to keep his chances alive. A break of 66 saw him snatch the seventh, before a sublime run of 117 saw him take the final frame to end four behind at 6-2.
Shaun Murphy survived a Mark Allen fightback to win 9-6 and reach the final of the International Championship in Daqing.
2005 World Champion Murphy faces current Crucible king Judd Trump in tomorrow’s final, where the pair will do battle over the best of 19 frames for the £175,000 top prize.
It will be Murphy’s first appearance in a ranking final since losing the title match at the Scottish Open back in December against today’s opponent Allen by a 9-7 scoreline.
This week’s impressive run has been much needed for Murphy, who had been under threat of falling out of the top 16 after struggling to nine first round exits last season. His performance in Daqing has solidified his position in the world rankings and ensured qualification for the upcoming Shanghai Masters, with the cut off at the end of this week’s event.
Defending champion Allen lifted the title last year with a 10-5 defeat of Neil Robertson in the final. The Northern Irishman will have to settle for a semi-final exit this time around.
Murphy had put himself in a strong position after a fine first session display had him 6-2 up coming into this evening. However, Allen had given himself hope by claiming the final two frames of the session, having trailed 6-0.
As they got back underway, Murphy extended his lead to 7-2 by taking a tense ninth frame on the colours. From that point Allen began to ramp up the pressure. He claimed two on the bounce to close within three at 7-4.
Murphy then moved one from victory. However, a fine contribution of 94 kept Allen in the contest and made the score 8-5.
A dramatic 14th frame then came down to the pink. Murphy broke down on a run of 52 after he failed to get good position on the second last ball. A safety battle ensued and eventually Murphy left the pink at Allen’s mercy. He deposited it and the black to make it 8-6.
Murphy then finally got himself over the line thanks to a break of 66 which put the seal on his 9-6 victory.
Mark Allen had been in great shape all week, but, unfortunately for him, his form deserted him today. Form isn’t a tap the players can turn at will and today wasn’t Mark’s day. He deserves a lot of credit for the way he fought back, but victory never looked likely to me as there were far too many unexpected mistakes even in the second session.
Shaun Murphy is playing a lot better than he did for most of last season, but still looks vulnerable. When a player goes through a long lasting bad spell, it damages their confidence and rebuilding it usually takes time.
Something he confirmed in his post-match
So, this is our line-up for tomorrow:
I think that Shaun Murphy needs a really good start tomorrow. He has the game to give Judd Trump a serious challenge – he showed this in the first six frames of today’s match – but he can’t afford his opponent – who is brimming with confidence – to take a big lead in the first session. Judd Trump will be favourite but hopefully we will have a real match to enjoy, and not just a one man show.
The “man in the middle” … will be a woman. Indeed Lyu Xilin – Queenie Lyu – wil be the Final’s referee and it’s her first ranking final.
She was interviewed by Worldsnooker:
Good luck Queenie, and enjoy your moment!