Shaun Murphy produced a mesmerizing comeback to beat Ali Carter 9-8 – taking the last five frames in a remarkable turnaround to reach the UK Championship final in York.
In an encounter of the absolute highest quality from start to finish, World Championship runner-up Carter appeared set to reach his maiden final at the second biggest major only to have to sit back and witness a monumental effort from his opponent at the game’s death.
The pair traded one big break after another in a frenetic battle that always had the Essex man one step ahead.
And when the 33 year-old extended his 5-3 first session advantage to 8-4 at the final interval all seemed lost for Murphy – champion in 2008.
But from nowhere really, the 2005 world champion came out all guns blazing and it was clear that he had decided if he was going to go out, he would do so in an attacking fashion.
In contrast, Carter’s head seemed to sway from his composed, offensive mantra of earlier in the tie to a more reserved, defensive approach, which allowed Murphy in to mount his charge.
The lead was quickly reduced to two frames, at which point Murphy compiled a terrific 105 century that included a succession of nerveless pots using the rest and spider implements.
From there, it was looking increasingly likely that there was only going to be one winner, especially when the decider was forced, but, after being kept cold and without a pot to his name in over half an hour, Carter surprisingly got in first in the 17th frame with a gutsy effort the length of the table.
A final twist always seemed likely, though, and a tricky missed red with the rest allowed Murphy in for his grateful opportunity.
He needed a couple of chances but continued his gung-ho brand of snooker that will have endeared him to many new fans and then duly completed the remarkable victory to the dismay of a devastated Carter.
The Englishman reportedly broke down in tears during his press conference, which just puts into perspective how much their profession means to these players.
For Murphy, though, it is a significantly confidence boosting triumph following a series of defeats at this stage of tournaments in recent years.
The 30-year old has drawn some critics for not boasting as much silverware as perhaps his talent merits, as well as abandoning the attacking style of snooker that brought him success at the highest level, but he answered those queries in style tonight.
Tomorrow sees the second semi-final take place between Marks Selby and Davis, with the former hoping to regain his world number one status with a win over the 40 year-old. Here’s what he had to say after last night’s win over Neil Robertson:
But Friday is all about Shaun Murphy.
The 2012 UK Championship has seen an incredible 147 from John Higgins followed by a botched pink in the decider to lose to Davis, and enthralling encounters involving teenager Luca Brecel.
But today’s first semi-final, back to the traditional best of 17 frame format that can provide so many twists and turns, has been the match of the tournament so far.
The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.