SHAUN Murphy looked as if he might fall prey once again to bogeyman Joe Swail at the Shanghai Masters before edging through to the last 16 on Monday.
Murphy emerged a 5-4 victor against the Northern Irishman, a player he had lost to on the three previous occasions they had met.
But after a see-saw encounter the former world champion showed a clinical touch in the decider, laying a snooker behind the yellow with the reds spread that ultimately earned its reward.
And during the match Murphy also got a refereeing decision overturned in frame six – an outcome that could potentially have actually worked against him at a critical moment in the match.
Murphy said: “A couple of the games against Joe have been key games in my life. I will always remember that is was Joe I beat in the qualifier to get to the Crucible in 2005, going on to win it.
“And he beat me in the Paul Hunter Classic recently – but I must admit I didn’t realise it had been the last three times before today – and it could have been four.
“I don’t think it is anything in his style particularly that I have trouble with – he‘s just a tough, old-school player.
“He will play on for three snookers if he needs to and get them often, and he will always get results against young players who are bit raw and inexperienced.
“When I played the snooker behind the yellow in the decider I made sure I got it really close because I was sure he would get out of it, and he was unlucky to hit the knuckle on the fourth go.
“He certainly didn’t panic when he was behind. I felt like I played really, really well, and I nearly lost – but that just shows how tough the standard is out there.”
The incident with referee Lu Kangming came with Murphy trailing 3-2 in frames but leading 49-33 in the next. After missing the reds twice he fully expected a warning for being able to see it full ball but none came.
Further enquiry revealed that the official did not believe the red could be seen full ball, a call reversed as another official and tournament director Mike Ganley had visited the arena.
Had Murphy not got the decision changed and missed the red again, Swail would not have got the frame as he should have. As it turned the Magician made contact at the third attempt.
Murphy said: “It was very clear. The rule is if you can see the red full ball and don’t do it three times you lose the frame with a warning before the third attempt.
“I knew I could see it full ball, so it was straightforward. And when I asked if he was going to warn me he said I couldn’t see it full ball, but I could. It wasn’t even close, and not in doubt.
“And what that threw up was that the referee didn’t think I could see it full ball, so if I had played and missed it again Joe wouldn’t have got the frame.
“I think most players would have declared the same, I can’t think of many that wouldn’t put their hands up and say it was an easier situation than was being portrayed.
“It was a simple mistake, nothing more, and we got there when other officials came out to the arena.”
Photograph by Monique Limbos