Shaun Murphy has stumbled into the quarter-finals of the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible after a hard-fought win over Ding Junhui.
Ding must be kicking himself, he had the match for the taking. Murphy played well below his usual standard. As they resumed for the final session it was tied at 8-8 and many in the press room were predicting a late night. Well, if you call 10.25pm a late finish then yes.
Ding opened the better in the final session but he couldn’t shake off Murphy who matched him frame for frame, the pick of which was surely frame 19 with a magnificent clearance of 137 by Ding to move 10-9 in front. However Murphy wasn’t about to surrender and he squared the match at 10-10 with breaks of 36 and 25.
The momentum had changed. Ding was starting to miss and Shaun’s poor form had succeeded in dragging Ding down to his level. Still credit should go to Shaun for managing to figure out a way to win despite his clear lack of form. He cashed in on his good fortune as he rolled in a break of 50 to put Ding under pressure immediately in frame 21. Still Shaun almost contrived to give the frame away when he managed to gift Ding a free ball. Ding may well regret not going for the jugular and killing a frame off which was surely there for the taking. Instead he chose to play safe, and succeeded in leaving the yellow over the corner pocket. With undisguised relief Shaun stepped in to sink the yellow and green to snatch the frame.
Had Murphy lost that frame it could well have spelt the end of the road for the Englishman, as it would have hurt to have chucked a certain frame away. Instead it was Ding who started to wilt under the pressure as he missed two simple reds to the corner pockets. With bits and pieces of 31, 20 and 23 the 2005 World Champion then led 12-10, needing only one more frame for victory.
There was to be no way back for Ding. When he missed a red to the centre pocket and left the easiest of starters for Shaun, the writing was on the wall. Shaun sunk the red and at last started to show something resembling form as he signed off with a break of 128 to bring an eight hour and 15 minute struggle to an end and book a quarter-final showdown with Allister Carter. For Ding, his Crucible second round hoodoo is prolonged for another year at least.