Murphy battles back from the brink to oust Brecel
Shaun Murphy shattered the teenage dreams of Luca Brecel as he survived a nerve-wracking quarter-final with snooker's new young star at the williamhill.com UK Championship.
On more than one occasion Murphy looked a beaten man. But 17-year-old Belgian Brecel twice faltered with the victory line in sight, missing crucial pinks in the 10th and 11th frames to allow the 2008 UK champion to pinch a 6-5 win.
Brecel had stepped up his performance level after scrappy wins over Ricky Walden and Mark King, but when it mattered most he was found wanting.
Murphy handed him a chance late in the decider, missing the final red when it appeared he got a kick, and Brecel looked to be on a victory march.
But the youngster left the cue ball the wrong side of the blue, and once he sank that ball, he could not get close enough to the pink to make it a formality.
Brecel rattled the pink in the jaws and it rolled kindly for Murphy who, having been in his chair and surely considering his exit, seized the chance to save himself.
Murphy, 30, will next tackle Ali Carter in the first semi-final. Carter came through 6-4 against his fellow Essex potter Stuart Bingham.
Brecel said of the final pink he missed: "I cued it perfectly but it stayed out."
He added: "Shaun said I played well which was very nice of him. I think it will be easier for me in future because I have this experience.
"I expected to get to the quarter-finals and I had a good chance to win today but Shaun deserved to win in the end.
"I'm ready to compete, but I'm only 17 and I've got so much time to get better and better."
Murphy could not believe his good fortune, having been resigned to going home.
"I thought I'd lost the match a couple of times, I really did think I was out," Murphy said.
"I think the adrenaline and maybe a little bit of inexperience cost him in the end. He overhit and underhit a couple of shots and I'm just relieved."
Now Carter stands in the way of the Manchester-based cueman, and the 33-year-old from Tiptree had a total clearance of 134 in his hard-fought victory over Basildon's Bingham.
Carter has been to a UK Championship semi-final before, losing to Marco Fu who went on to be beaten by Murphy in the 2008 final. He was also a World Championship runner-up in 2008 and this year.
The world number 15 said: "I don't feel like I've played particularly great yet but I'm in the semis and I'd take that.
"I'll definitely need to play better. I'm going to have to find some form to go on and win the tournament."
Mark Davis tonight joined the semi-final line-up as the most successful season of his 21 years as a snooker professional reached a new high.
The 40-year-old reached his third ranking event semi-final of the campaign with a 6-4 victory over the 2003 UK champion Matthew Stevens.
Davis had never made it so far in one of snooker's majors before this term, but he began his run of success at the Wuxi Classic in June, followed it up with another semi-final showing at the Australian Open in July and now has a final in his sights in York.
He fired breaks of 101, 80 and 70 in seeing off Welshman Stevens, earning himself a shot at Neil Robertson or Mark Selby on Saturday. Robertson and Selby were engaged in a punishing contest tonight that looked in danger of running beyond midnight.