Judd Trump has his back against the wall in his bid to win the World Championship for a second time, as he trails Shaun Murphy 10-6 heading into the final session of their quarter final.
Trump has five tournament wins to his name this term, but he has looked a step short of his best in Sheffield and has bumped into an opponent in supreme form.
Murphy has had a torrid season by his own high standards, but has looked sharp in all departments at the Crucible and is three frames from a place in the semi-finals.
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The pair came into the second session locked together at 4-4. Trump was striving for sharpness in the first frame and edged back in front courtesy of a couple of decent contributions in the ninth.
Murphy came into the contest as the underdog but arguably in better form, and he sent a warning to Trump that he was in a battle by pouncing on a safety error to knock in an 85 to level the scores at 5-5.
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Murphy edged in front for the first time since the fifth frame when keeping Trump cold in his chair and had a chance to open up a two-frame gap for the first time in the match in the 12th, but he was left to gesticulate at the cue ball in frustration after missing a red into the bottom-right corner.
It looked more like pilot error than a kick, and it cost him as Trump knocked in a 59 to leave them level at the mid-session interval.
The 2005 champion, Murphy has a cue action that is the envy of the majority in the game and it looked rock solid in a break of 104, which moved him back in front in the frame after the interval.
Trump has been a step short of his best at the Crucible, and a missed black with the rest after fashioning a chance summed up his tournament so far. The world number one was left to rue his error, as Murphy stepped in to open up a two-frame advantage for the first time in the match.
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Trump had Murphy in a pickle in the 15th frame after playing an excellent safety. With no path back to baulk, Murphy was left with no option but to attempt to pot his way out of trouble.
The Rolls Royce cue action did not let him down, as a long black down the right-side of the table found the pocket and set up a frame-winning break of 124 for a three-frame cushion.
Trump has bullied players for a couple of years, but he is the one on the receiving end of a Murphy barrage. The world number one broke down on 31 in the final frame of the session and Murphy seized on a sloppy safety to knock in a long red.
With the prospect of a four-frame lead in his sights, Murphy had every right to feel nervous. There was no sign of nerves as he ruthlessly compiled a break of 58 to sweep all four frames after the interval and move 10-6 ahead in the race to 13.
Stuart Bingham set up a semi-final clash with Mark Selby by beating Anthony McGill in a final-frame decider.
Bingham found himself 10-7 down, but rallied superbly to lead 12-10. McGill, who got the better of Ronnie O’Sullivan in a final-frame shootout in the second round, won the 23rd and 24th to take the contest to a fitting conclusion.
The 2015 champion got in first and made no mistake, with a brilliant 125 - his fourth century of the match - securing his passage to the semi-finals for the first time since his Crucible win.
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