Shaun Murphy overcame a poor start to claim a 5-4 win over Kurt Maflin at the German Masters.
The 39-year-old has had a tough time this season, with poor form not being helped by having to combat a back complaint.
He arrived at the Tempodrom fighting for ranking points to secure his spot at the Players Championship, while he is also keen to win an event named in honour of his great friend Brandon Parker who passed away in 2020. Things did not look good early on as he fell two frames behind, but he took confidence from his opponent’s struggles to advance to the last-16.
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An opening frame littered with errors eventually went Maflin’s way via a slice of good fortune.
Murphy, despite looking way short of his best, battled his way back into the frame and appeared to have it in the bag after potting a brilliant pink and bringing the white round the angles for the black. But he went back to his chair after seeing the cue ball drop into the right middle, and Maflin knocked in the re-spotted pink.
A break of 54 gave Maflin control of the second, and he fed off scraps to fall over the line after Murphy continued to miss presentable chances.
After two frames of, by his own standards, poor snooker - Murphy crunched in a long red at the start of the third and a break of 74 secured him a foothold in the contest.
Maflin had chances in the fourth but failed to take them and the former world champion was presented with an opening which he took it to draw level at the interval.
Going into the mid-session interval level would have been a boon to Murphy, as he was nearer to his Z Game than A Game.
But he could see in the chair opposite a player who was struggling as well. An error from Maflin handed Murphy a chance in the fifth and he stroked in a fluent 124 to move ahead for the first time in the match.
Maflin began to sink lower into his chair after each miss and Murphy was able to open up a two-frame cushion by taking the sixth.
The sloppy play in the sixth suggested Maflin was about to wave the white flag, so it came as a surprise when he revived his fortunes with the 200th century of his career to take the seventh.
The frustration for Maflin is that he mixes the ridiculous with the sublime. After some ridiculous passages of play, he flipped a switch to knock in a sublime century and then a break of 66 in the eighth. But frame-ball blue did not drop, and Murphy had a chance to force a re-spot with a clearance.
He did not take the first attempt but, inexplicably, Maflin fouled a red - allowing Murphy to win. Again, he did not take it and it came down to a pink-ball frame. Maflin showed tremendous heart to shrug off the foul to win an excellent safety battle before potting the pink to force a decider.
Both players had much to reflect on as the balls were set up for the decider.
For as much as his form has been more down than up this season, Murphy has a steely temperament and he showed it by picking off a break of 67.
An excellent long red set up the chance, he went into the cluster at the first time of asking and moved to the brink of the winning line. As was befitting of the contest, he ran out of position on match-ball red and had to endure a safety battle before sealing the win.
Mark Allen made seamless progress to the round of 16 against Lyu Haotian, and Murphy will have to up his level if he is to challenge the in-form Northern Irishman.
Thursday afternoon results
- Kurt Maflin  4-5 Shaun Murphy 
- Noppon Saengkham  2-5 Ryan Day 
- Sam Craigie  5-3 Ken Doherty 
- David Gilbert  3-5 Yan Bingtao 
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