SHAUN Murphy insisted earlier in the season that he was specifically targeting the Masters this term as the sole Triple Crown title to have eluded him.

To do that the 2005 world champion was likely to have to bring the same game and form to Alexandra Palace as he showed throughout much of 2014, especially in European Tour events.

Murphy claimed four titles last year including the World Open, and then ET successes in Poland, Bulgaria and Germany.

These came off the back of a decision to go back to a more attacking approach and plenty of hard work ensuring he scored more heavily when given the chance, evidenced further by three 147 maximum breaks over the 12 months.

So it is a case of so far, so good for Murphy heading in to the final weekend in north London after excellent wins over world champion Mark Selby (6-5) and then on Friday night Stephen Maguire (6-4) making two breaks of 103.

Murphy will now take on Mark Allen in Saturday night’s second semi-final, after Allen, one of the men of the season to date, won an altogether less impressive quarter-final against Joe Perry in which the Northern Irishman’s top break was just 55.

World No6 Allen later claimed the contest was “embarrassing” but as in the face of the bombardment inflicted by John Higgins in the first round, he found a way to win.

Murphy said: “I thought it was a very, very good match against Stephen with few unforced errors. The only person who sails through these games is Ronnie who blitzes people, the rest of us struggle through. Stephen has played well and lost, I know what that feels like.

“Every single match here could be a final, and the one against Mark will be no exception. We have had some great matches, a recent one was at the World Open, I won that one but that might not be the same this time.

“There is very little that beats the atmosphere of a sell-out crowd here, even at the Crucible – maybe only the world final.

“I feel like I am scoring very well and have been for a year now. I was criticised in the past for not scoring heavily enough, and that was right. But it is still about winning, and the good form just gives me that little extra confidence.

“The difference at one of the Major events from a professional’s point of view is that they have a different feel, with the BBC involvement there is the sense the nation is watching and it adds a bit of glamour.

“The pressure of winning the match is no different really to say European Tour events but these tournaments mean more, there is more history attached and for a historian like me they mean more.”


Photograph by Monique Limbos