SHAUN MURPHY will face Liang Wenbo while Mark Selby meets Stephen Maguire for a place in the Kreativ Dental German Masters final in Berlin on Saturday.
I have spent many days at the snooker and this was one of the very best in terms of the excitement, quality and atmosphere. All four quarter-finals ended in deciding frame finishes and that followed an absorbing afternoon session.
Murphy dodged several bullets before booking his semi-final place. He had raced 3-0 ahead against Mark Allen in the last 16 but missed a black splitting the pack in the fifth frame and the match turned.
Murphy was left trailing 4-3 and needing a snooker in the eighth frame but got it and made a fabulous colours clearance before winning the decider. A couple of hours later he was back out for a quarter-final against Ronnie O’Sullivan, who had oozed class in dispatching Joe Perry 5-0 in just 66 minutes.
Murphy led 2-0 but had never beaten O’Sullivan in a ranking event and the pattern seemed set to continue when he fell 4-2 adrift to the five times world champion.
A year ago that probably would have been that but Murphy has a new sense of confidence and belief, as he demonstrated by winning the Masters last month, and ended up clearing last red to black to win the decider and clinch a victory which clearly meant a lot to him.
Liang had already battled through to the quarter-finals with a 5-4 victory over Stuart Bingham and won another decider against Ryan Day to book his first ranking event semi-final spot since the 2009 Shanghai Masters, when he lost in the final to O’Sullivan.
Murphy doesn’t like playing him. Liang leads their head-to-head 4-1 having won three deciders, including that 2009 Shanghai semi.
Liang is a fascinating player to watch because he is something of a maverick but this doesn’t always make him enjoyable to play. He went largely AWOL from the latter stages of tournaments since his great run in Shanghai but has come quietly through the draw at the Tempodrom. Murphy, on current form, is an obvious favourite but by no means a certainty.
In amongst all of the drama last night was a maximum break by Judd Trump, his second in tournament play and indeed his second against Mark Selby.
Trump also became the first player to make a 147 in the iconic Tempodrom, to the delight of the capacity crowd.
He led the decider but Selby, as so often before, made a good break to win it. He’s still tired but it doesn’t seem to make any difference to the world champion.
Trump, like O’Sullivan, was very gracious in the immediate aftermath of defeat. The players are really positive about this tournament. The venue is excellent and the support they get serves as inspiration.
This may explain the extraordinary way by which Maguire earned victory over Neil Robertson. As if the day needed any more drama, the Scot provided it just after midnight when he won yet another decider after needing two snookers.
Robertson inadvertently knocked the black in and, after escaping from a snooker, left a chance for Maguire to dish up, which he duly did to bring the curtain down on the best day of snooker this season.
Maguire reached the final in Berlin three years ago, Selby did so in 2011, so they each have previous form and experience to call on here.
The Tempodrom comes down to one table today and the tournament, already terrific, really comes into its own as we approach the finale.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.