SHAUN MURPHY won another dramatic battle at Alexandra Palace to reach the quarter-finals of the Dafabet Masters on Tuesday.
Murphy trailed 2011 Masters champion Ding Junhui 4-2 but prevailed 6-4 after a tense afternoon in which both players grew edgy and made mistakes.
It was the fourth match of the five played so far in this year’s event to go close but Murphy, who entered the arena to the theme from Superman the Movie, was delighted to knock out one of this season’s form players.
“That’s a massive win for me in terms of the season and the way my results have been going,” Murphy said.
“I’ve been working dead hard on my snooker and getting absolutely nothing for it. Maybe the turn of the new year is the turn of the tide for me.
“I’ve felt this season that I’ve been there or thereabouts. Last week I had a 147 at the Championship League and that goes to show I’m going well. All I’ve been lacking is a few results. Maybe this win could be the turning point.”
Murphy’s entrance music got the crowd going but it looked as if Ding had a Kryptonite cue judging by the way he started the match. Ding, winner of three successive ranking titles this season, made breaks of 99 and 84 to lead 2-0, leaving Murphy potless.
However, Ding missed a red in the third frame and Murphy stepped in with 71 before his 64, made when Ding left him in from an attempted escape from a snooker, made it 2-2 after just 50 minutes.
Ding made 70 from Murphy’s missed red in the fifth but the standard of play then deteriorated, with both players making errors as the tension grew.
Ding led 4-2 but Murphy won the seventh and cleared with 46 to the pink to clinch the eighth after Ding had missed a red using the rest.
Murphy failed to execute a plant in the ninth when 62 points ahead with 75 remaining but Ding did not get position on the yellow and Murphy won the safety exchange and then the frame.
The tenth could have gone either way but Murphy stood up the pressure the better to secure a quarter-final meeting with Marco Fu.
“This is a massive event. We both want to win it and we both gave everything. Snooker isn’t as easy as it looks. We’ve been graced by the legends of the sport who have made it look so easy but it isn’t and there were a few twitchy shots and misses.
The match had been delayed by an hour and 15 minutes after the area around Alexandra Palace was hit by a powercut only minutes before play had been due to start. Murphy, though, was not affected.
“It’s as distracting as you want it to be,” he said. “Tennis players have it all the time with rain delays but there was a lot of good camaraderie backstage and we all had a laugh about it.
“I practice in a conservative club in Urmston and you put your 50ps in the slot and the light goes out. So I’m used to playing in the dark – it doesn’t make any difference to me."
Ding blamed poor preparation for his disappointing performance. He said: “I wasn’t ready for this tournament. I came back late from China and only had a couple of days of practice.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos.