Englishmen Shaun Murphy and Stuart Bingham will contest the 2015 Beftred World Snooker Championship final in Sheffield.
The duo came through contrasting semi-finals contested over the last three days at the Crucible Theatre to set up an ultimate showdown that not many would have predicted at the outset of the tournament.
After building up an almost insurmountable lead following his opening two sessions with Barry Hawkins, Murphy coasted to a 17-9 victory in his last four clash.
Bingham, on the other hand, prevailed in an engrossing encounter with favourite Judd Trump that will go down as one of the best matches ever on the famous stage.
Certainly the conclusion will live long in the memory as, on the eve of the biggest boxing bout in history, the pair traded blow for blow right throughout the final session, their standard increasing under the intense pressure of the impending moment that would see one of them realise their dream and the other fulfill a nightmare.
Both compiled a brace of centuries with the winning line in sight, in Trump’s case from two frames down with three to play in order to force a decider.
But Bingham, as he has done all throughout the event, held his nerve superbly well to dominate the 33rd frame and seal his maiden appearance in a world final.
Some will point to Trump’s questionable standard in the early exchanges but, make no mistake about it, Bingham fully deserves his shot at lifting the trophy come Monday evening.
The dramatic conclusion on Saturday was just what the 2015 edition needed as, while enjoyable, it had failed to provide many highlights up until that point.
Attention now, naturally, turns to the showpiece confrontation in the City of Steel over the next couple of days.
It’s not the decider many would have been expecting or perhaps hoping for, but that doesn’t mean that we wont have a barnstorming affair in store.
As proven by their four victories to get to this final hurdle, both Murphy and Bingham are playing well enough to go on and capture the title.
For Murphy it would be his second success a decade after his first, emulating the great Alex Higgins.
Bingham has a distinct disadvantage as, unlike his opponent who has already experienced the highs and lows of a Crucible final twice in his career, this is unknown and scary territory for the 38 year-old.
That said, Ballrun’s approach so far offers hope that he wont be about to crumble as the biggest game of his life approaches.
It was clear throughout his semi-final that Bingham was enjoying every second of simply realising an ambition he has held for more than twenty years.
The two-time ranking event champion has won a lot of new fans this fortnight and rightly so as he is a friendly character who is genuinely in love with the sport he practices as a profession.
Victory would complete a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for both of these two competitors.
Bingham was considered a journeyman prior to the Barry Hearn era, somebody who was failing to live up to his potential, but since the influx of new tournaments on the calendar he has grown in stature among the sport’s elite.
Murphy, meanwhile, was considering packing the game in only 16 months ago when he suffered defeat in the semi-final of the Masters.
The 32 year-old, who previously lost in the 2009 world final to John Higgins, had failed to win a meaningful trophy for almost three years but, helped by coach Chris Henry and a new fitness regime that saw him lose three stone in weight, has added five trophies to his cabinet since then – including this season’s Masters at Alexandra Palace.
Murphy has looked supremely confident and perhaps this is best demonstrated by the fact that he bought five new suits before the tournament began; he knew he was in for the long haul.
Over the best of 35 frames there is sufficient time for the tie to ebb one way and then the other, sometimes in dramatic swings.
However, one suspects it’s more important for Bingham to get off to a solid start because if he falls behind by any significant margin his chances might spiral out of control.
A lot may depend on the opening session and whether or not Bingham has recovered enough following his late night success yesterday, with Murphy having had most of the day off from competing.
The adrenaline will surely be pumping for both at this stage, though, as they can just about envisage their names etched on the silverware.
This is what their season and, certainly in Bingham’s case, their career has been building up to.
Who will grasp the opportunity and become the 2015 world champion?
Categories: Snooker News