Murphy looked sharp and confident as he build a four-frame advantage against fifth seed Hawkins. The Nottingham-based potter took the opening frame with a break of 92, and then made a 40 clearance to steal the second after Hawkins had broken down on 63. A scrappy third frame went to Murphy and it would have been 4-0 if he hadn’t gone in-off when potting the final black before the mid-session interval. Shrugging off that error, Murphy won two of the next three frames with superb centuries, 105 and 138, sandwiching a run of 69 from Hawkins which gave him frame seven. Kent-based Hawkins, who played in the semi-finals for the third year in a row, led 51-0 in the last of the session, but Masters champion Murphy made an excellent 79 clearance to extend his lead. Murphy led 6-2 after the first session and quickly extended his lead with a break of 73 in the opening frame of the second session, followed by a 105 century. The 32-year-old’s heavy scoring continued as runs of 79 and 72 made it 10-2 at the interval. World number five Hawkins pulled one back with a run of 79. But Murphy’s 121 made it 11-3, and he added the next two frames with a top run of 54 to carve out a 13-3 lead. Murphy took the opening frame of the third session to move within three of the winning line. Hawkins was determined to survive the third session and he hit back with breaks of 103, 57, 104 and 73 to win four frames on the spin. Murphy responded with 90 and 106 – his 11th century of the tournament – to lead 16-7. And he had an early chance in the last of the session but over-cut a red on 22, and Hawkins compiled a run of 76 to ensure he’d be back in the concluding session. Hawkins pulled one back with an excellent break of 103 – the eighth century of the match – but Murphy settled the result in the next with a cool 83 clearance.
Murphy was just 22 when he won snooker’s biggest title for the first time ten years ago, after coming through the qualifying rounds. He also reached the final in 2009 but lost to John Higgins. The world number eight now has the chance to join Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan as the only players to conquer the Crucible on more than one occasion.
“It’s unbelievable – aside from winning the World Championship and the Masters, getting to the final here is the best feeling in snooker,” said Murphy. “To have the opportunity to get your name on that trophy – even to touch it and be in the same room as it – is amazing. It’s hallowed turf for snooker players, so I’m buzzing.”
“I didn’t really take part in the 2009 final against Higgins, so to have another crack at it is what I’ve been dreaming of since then. It would mean more than winning it the first time if I was to win it again, I will be putting absolutely everything I’ve got into this match”
“I’m just so lucky that I am getting to live my dreams. As a child I came here to watch the Championship for the first time in 1992 and I dreamt of walking out here. So to walk out in the final for a third time – it’s something I’m going to savour. I’m going to enjoy every minute of it, I’ll enjoy every little picture that I take with my mind, everybody I see in the audience, every shot. But when it comes down to play I will focus and give it my best.”
Bingham completed one of the best wins of his career on Wednesday evening when he beat O’Sullivan 13-9, by winning the last 5 frames of match, to reach the last four at the Crucible for the first time. He continued his superb form by making a fine start to his semi-final clash with Judd Trump. The opening frame of the semi-final went to Trump and he made a break of 64 in the second, only for Basildon’s Bingham to clear superbly with 65. Trump took the third on the colours but Bingham then won three in a row with top runs of 89, 49 and 74 to lead 4-2. A break of 75 gave Trump frame seven, but it was Bingham who finished on top with a 76 to ensure a 5-3 lead. The players shared the frames of the second session, so Bingham maintained his two frames advantage. Bingham won the opening frame with a 52 clearance to go 6-3 ahead, then Trump responded with a break of 113, his eighth century of the tournament, and a 63 clearance to close the encounter to 6-5.Stuart won frame 12 with a run of 67, then took advantage of a miss on the final red from Judd in the next to go 8-5 ahead. The 14th came down to the colours, and a superb long pot on the yellow, cutting it into a top corner, set Trump up to narrow the gap. Bingham hit back with an 85 for 9-6 but Trump made a 64 in the last of the session. Trump started strongly the third session with breaks of 61 and 91 to draw level at 9-9. But he made several unforced errors over the next four frames as world number ten Bingham surged ahead. Breaks of 67, 62 and 59 helped Bingham to go 13-9 up. Frame 23 came down to the colours and Trump looked in charge when he gained 36 points from laying snookers on the yellow, which put him 25 ahead. Bingham later laid a clever snooker on the blue, and from the chance that followed he could have won the frame by potting the last three balls. But having slotted in the blue, he missed a tricky pink to a baulk corner, and left it hanging over a pocket for Trump to close to 13-10 and with the winning break of 65 points Judd finished just two behind. Judd lost the opening frame of the final session after failing to cut a tough last red into a centre pocket. The left-hander hit back to take the next two with runs of 88 and 50. Heavy blows were traded in the next five frames: Bingham made 106, Trump took the next with 76, Bingham’s 102 put him 16-14 ahead, only for Trump to roar back with 108 and 129, to set up the decider. First chance went to Bingham but he could only make 12 before missing blue to centre. Trump potted red and blue but then under-cut a red to a top corner. Bingham’s 27 put him in control at 43-6. And after a bout of safety, Bingham cleverly planted a red into a top corner, and the 19 points he added secured him a final berth.
“At 16-16 the noise, the atmosphere and the adrenaline were brilliant,” said Bingham, who has won three titles this season. “To hold myself together in the end and to know I’m going to come out for the world final tomorrow is unbelievable. The emotions are flowing, I’ve had a few tears already. I’ve had 20 years of blood, sweat and tears, and now I’m just enjoying the experience.”
“It didn’t bother me when Judd came back at me,” said Bingham. “In the decider I just kept it tight. The plant on the red in the end, I knew if it went in then the frame was there for the taking. I have been positive for the last two weeks and I felt it was my chance.”
“It’s going to be tough against Shaun, he has played some great stuff from day one here. I’ve just got to try to take my chances for the next two days. It will mean everything if I can do it. I will enjoy every second of it.”
The final will be played over 35 frames, first session of 8 frames and second of 9 frames on Sunday and third session of 8 frames and a final session of up to 10 frames on Monday for the title and a £300,000 top prize.
H2H: Murphy 10-2
Prediction: Murphy to conquer in style his second title at the Crucible.
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