Mark Selby's valiant comeback proved in vain as he went down 5-4 in an absorbing quarter-final contest with John Higgins at the Northern Ireland Open, the Scot setting up a semi-final with Judd Trump on Saturday.
Higgins holds off Selby comeback
Mark Selby's valiant comeback proved in vain as he went down 5-4 in an absorbing quarter-final contest with John Higgins, the Scot winning a final-frame decider with a brilliant, nerveless break of 110 to set up a semi-final meeting with Judd Trump.
These two master tacticians have locked horns in some classic encounters over the years, not least in two World Championship finals, and despite a slow start, this latest clash didn't disappoint.
An edgy start from both players saw Higgins win the opening frame and though Selby hit straight back with a break of 101 in frame two, he wasn't able to find any rhythm and slipped 3-1 behind at the mid-session interval as Higgins chipped away without finding anything close to his best form either.
In fact, when Higgins extended his lead to 4-1 thanks to a run of 67, that was his most significant contribution of a match in which neither player looked entirely comfortable.
However, seemingly freed up by his impending exit, Selby suddenly burst into life and rattled off breaks of 109, 62 and 52 in a period of sustained brilliance in which Higgins was only guilty of missing a tricky red along the bottom cushion in frame six.
With Selby, winner of the English Open already this season, having levelled the scores at 4-4, it was he who appeared to have the momentum going into a final-frame shootout but a protracted safety battle at the beginning of the frame broke his stride before both players finally agreed to a re-rack.
When the ninth frame got under way for a second time, it was Higgins who was handed the first chance and although he couldn't make it count, a failed attempted plant from Selby left the door ajar again and Higgins accepted the opening with typical ruthlessness.
With the reds spread far and wide, Higgins manoeuvred the cue ball with surgical precision as he calmly navigated his way to the winning line, the century an added bonus at the end of a gruelling match that had appeared to be slipping from his hands only moments earlier.
Higgins said afterwards: "I was miscuing all over the place but in the last frame I felt alright because you know you either win it or you lose it.
"He's [Trump] a brilliant player, brilliant to watch. He's just swatting everyone aside and it will be the ultimate test.
"It's the same as if you're going up against O'Sullivan in that you know if you don't play well you're beat - it's simple.
"We've always had great games and hopefully tomorrow will be another one."
The Rocket guns down Murphy
Ronnie O'Sullivan wasted little time in booking his place in the last four, brushing aside Shaun Murphy 5-1.
In keeping with his approach all week, O'Sullivan maintained his all-out attack policy but Murphy will look back on a number of key moments that ultimately saw his title bid slip away.
A break of 77 was enough for O'Sullivan to win the opening frame of the evening but Murphy looked certain to draw level in frame two before allowing O'Sullivan the chance to counter, one he grasped with both hands as a cool clearance of 42 saw him steal the frame on the black to double his lead.
When O'Sullivan added breaks of 52 and 78 in frame three the match appeared all but over, but Murphy again had the chance to launch a fightback in the following frame, this season's China Championship winner looking well set for his own clearance until missing a relatively simple red along the bottom cushion to see another frame fall from his grasp.
To his credit, Murphy returned from the mid-session interval in positive fashion, compiling a flawless run of 104 to keep the match alive but despite following up with a break of 64 in frame six, he again allowed O'Sullivan to pick his pocket, last year's runner-up closing out the match and leaving Murphy ruing a night of missed opportunities.
O'Sullivan will face Joe Perry in Saturday night's semi-final after the veteran came from 3-1 behind to beat Alexander Ursenbacher 5-3.
Perry knocked in breaks off 67, 73, 95 and 73 to end Ursenbacher's dream run in Belfast.
Trump shoots down the Sheriff
Judd Trump made light work of Anthony Hamilton, running out a comfortable 5-1 victor of their quarter-final match.
Trump took this title en route to glory at the World Championship last April, and a successful defence has appeared on the cards ever since he came through a battle with James Cahill at the start of the week.
Since that 4-3 success, Trump has now conceded just two more frames in four matches, dominating this one from the very start having bagged a 106 break in the opening frame before edging the second.
Hamilton - known as the Sheriff of Pottingham - got on the board in frame three, where Trump failed to score, but the left-hander responded with breaks of 66, 73 and 105 to win in under two hours.
"It's quite tough playing Anthony, it's hard work," said Trump.
"Glad to get it over and done with quite quick, just starting to feel tired the last few days.
"Luckily, I'm getting through quite easily. I just didn't quite feel it out there today."
Next will be a clash with John Higgins, with a replay of the 2018 final against Ronnie O'Sullivan still on the cards.
Northern Ireland Open: Friday's schedule
Friday November 15
Afternoon session (1200 GMT)
TV coverage: Eurosport
- Judd Trump 5-1 Anthony Hamilton
- Mark Selby 4-5 John Higgins
Friday November 15
Evening session (1900 GMT)
TV coverage: Eurosport
- Joe Perry 5-3 Alexander Ursenbacher
- Shaun Murphy 1-5 Ronnie O'Sullivan