Shaun ‘The Magician’ Murphy is on the cusp of conjuring up a third Betfred World Snooker Championship final appearance after a scintillating second session here at the Crucible, writes Neil Goulding.
The 2005 winner said recently how ‘special’ it would be to emulate the legendary Alex Higgins by winning his second world title ten years on from his first.
Murphy resumed yesterday 6-2 ahead, and Hawkins only won one frame in a disastrous morning session. Breaks of 73, 105, 79, 72 and 121 enabled Murphy to soar into a commanding ten frame lead.
But Hawkins rallied and rattled in runs of 103, 57, 104 and 73 to take four of the first five frames in the evening.
Murphy, a finalist here in 2009, sank a 90 and 106 to go within one frame of victory, but Hawkins ended the day with a 76 to keep his extremely slender title hopes alive and avoid the humiliation of defeat with a session to spare.
When pre-tournament favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan crashed out at the quarter-final stage on Wednesday, he was replaced by young pretender Judd Trump at the top of the bookies’ lists.
And ‘The Juddernaut’ has been quietly confident around the Crucible this year, believing that it’s now his time to shine on snooker’s biggest stage.
“I’m 100% ready now,” he said earlier this week. “I know I’ve got the game to win it and it’s just a matter of time I think.”
But the potting sensation has struggled to live up to his billing in the first two sessions of his semi-final showdown with the Rocket’s conqueror Stuart Bingham.
Trump resumed 5-3 down yesterday and the pair shared the eight frames played in the second session, but it was a disjointed display from the usually free-flowing Bristol potter.
A century break of 113 in addition to a 63 and a 64 were the best Trump could muster, whilst Bingham - who looks unfazed in his first semi-final showing – chipped in 52, 67, 54 and 85 to maintain his two frame cushion.
Before the tournament began, sponsors Befred pledged to donate a whopping £25,000 to local charity Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice if 70 centuries were made in the 17 day event.
Murphy’s run of 105 ensured that target was met yesterday, and Betfred’s donation tipped the total raised to £200,000 in the three years since they became World Snooker’s chosen charity.
Former Crucible finalist Nigel Bond and snooker MC Rob Walker visited the Sheffield-based hospice to mark the milestone.
Yesterday’s celebrity spyglass spotted Barnsley footballer Sam Winnall enjoying this iconic venue, as well as regular snooker super fan Nicko McBrain, drummer in the band Iron Maiden.
There was also a welcome return to the Crucible for German fan Christine Pagel a year after she was taken ill during the tournament and had to undergo an emergency operation to remove a kidney stone at Royal Hallamshire Hospital. World Snooker gave her free tickets for the semi-finals.