Snooker: Murphy recovers in style as fortune favours brave

The last time a qualifier reached the Embassy World Championship final was in 1979, when Terry Griffiths faced Dennis Taylor for the title and won the tournament at his first attempt. Shaun Murphy and Ian McCulloch both sought to repeat the qualifiers-to-final feat yesterday, with contrasting results.

The last time a qualifier reached the Embassy World Championship final was in 1979, when Terry Griffiths faced Dennis Taylor for the title and won the tournament at his first attempt. Shaun Murphy and Ian McCulloch both sought to repeat the qualifiers-to-final feat yesterday, with contrasting results.

Murphy, 22, the world No 48 from Rotherham, laid his claim during a sensational morning session in which he won seven of eight frames in his best-of-33 semi against Peter Ebdon, the 2002 champion. Having trailed 2-6 at the start of play, he stormed to a 9-7 lead ahead of the match's third session last night.

The quality of Murphy's break-building was matched by his fearlessness as he hit two centuries and three other breaks over 50. No long pot, either as a starter or mid-break, was too audacious. Invariably they sank, and sweetly, and when they did not sink sweetly they sank with outrageous good fortune.

The best cases in point came in the fifth frame of the morning. Murphy struck a red towards the bottom left pocket. It crashed into the angle and bounced out, only to fly along the rail and fall into the bottom right pocket.

Later in the same frame he hammered a red towards the bottom right. Again it hit the angle, but this time it spun around the table and ended up in the middle right.

The day's first frame began with a long opening red and a tough black along the cushion, which were the first two pots in a splendid 138 to bring the score to 3-6. Another century, 108, made it 4-6 before Ebdon hit a 61 for 7-4.

Murphy, who eliminated two former champions, Steve Davis and John Higgins, on his way to the last four, made a pivotal 51 in a cagey next frame for 5-7. Then, aided by his fluked reds and a decisive 42 to the brown, he moved to 6-7.

Parity arrived thanks to a risky but crucial plant in the next frame. A bullet red began a fluid knock of 82 in the next frame to make it 8-7 in Murphy's favour. Then two stunning long pots, on a red and an unfeasible blue, took him to 9-7.

McCulloch, who led Matthews Stevens 6-2 before yesterday's sole session in their semi, struggled for consistency as Stevens hit five 50-plus breaks in an impressive comeback to level at 8-8 overnight.

Ebdon received the backing of Ronnie O'Sullivan's mentor Ray Reardon following the go-slow controversy in his quarter-final win. "The audience was bored and I was bored," he said. "It was the slowest game of snooker I have ever known. But was it a deliberate tactic? I doubt whether Peter knew what he did. He was probably wrapped up in the game."

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