Selby stages Houdini act

  • Last Updated: January 17 2014, 7:10 GMT

Mark Selby staged an incredible fightback to beat John Higgins 6-5 and keep his Masters title defence running.

Mark Selby: Superb effort in the final frame
Mark Selby: Superb effort in the final frame

The defending champion was 5-3 down to his Scottish foe but fought back to 5-5 and forced a final-frame decider.

In that, Higgins held a big lead but still Selby refused to relent and the shot of the tournament got him back into the frame.

He produced a superb snooker, tucking the cue ball up behind the green on the baulk cushion - a shot which resulted in several fouls by Higgins to get Selby right back in the contest.

There was still plenty of work to do but Selby continued to chip away at Higgins' lead in a lengthy, tense frame before striking when the duo got down to the colours.

Selby produced a fine double to sink the blue into the middle pocket which left him needing just the pink to book a place in the semi-finals after more than four hours' play.

And he cut the pink into the middle from a tight angle to set up a last-four showdown with Shaun Murphy, who had staged his own comeback to defeat Marco Fu 6-4 earlier in the day.

"I'm relieved more than anything," said Selby to "I played well before the interval, then after that I struggled.

"In the last frame I thought about playing safe on the blue. But I decided to just go for it full-blooded. I knew I was going towards the pink so if I missed there was a chance I would get away with it.

"John has been struggling recently but in patches it looked as if he was getting his game back. Near the end he missed a few, maybe because of nerves or doubts coming into his head.

"I've watched a bit of Shaun this week and he seems to be playing well and I'm happy for him because I don't want to see my friend struggle. But that will go out of the window on Saturday."

It was the fifth of the 10 matches so far this week to go to a deciding frame. Murphy's win was not one of them, but did require an inspired comeback from the "Magician".

The Sale-based player trailed 3-0 and 4-1 before finding his most fluent break-building form to reel off five frames in succession.

Fu knocked out showman Judd Trump in round one and began his second tussle in similarly strong form, taking the first frame with a 76 break.

Murphy missed a costly black off its spot after making 48 in the second, Fu responding with 31 and 30 to take the frame before adding the next.

Murphy finally got on the board in frame four with the help of a 49 but Fu restored his three-frame cushion with a 71 in the frame after the interval.

The match turned from then on, though, as Murphy roared back into the game. Breaks of 86 and 81 got him within one frame and he followed up with 117 to level the match.

Frame nine came down to a crucial safety battle on the final red and then the yellow, on which Fu laid a devilish snooker which Murphy twice missed by the narrowest margin.

Fu turned down two potting opportunities though, and was left regretting those decisions when Murphy cleared the colours to lead for the first time.

And he wrapped up victory in the next, taking control with a 64 and finishing things off when Fu left him a pot on the green.

Asked what happened to spark the turnaround, Murphy told BBC Sport: "I've no idea - and isn't that the frustrating thing about snooker?

"When it's going bad, you've no idea why, and when it's going well you've no idea. We're all absolutely clueless!

"I've realised playing my natural, more aggressive, style is where it's at for me. The likes of (Mark) Selby and (Neil) Robertson are more rounded players but that's not my style, it's not the way I'm made.

"I've been working really hard, to get used to my new cue has taken longer than I thought but I made a 147 last week in the Championship League and I thought 'yeah, you know it's there son, you know you can play this game'.

"I came here with no form whatsoever and I'm just on a bonus now, I can't wait to play again."

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