SHAUN MURPHY gained early control of his World Championship semi-final against Barry Hawkins after taking a 6-2 overnight lead.
As is tradition, Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre returned to the famous one-table set-up as the tournament reached the semi-final stages and Murphy, playing his first World Championship semi-final in six years, dominated proceedings with a brilliant array of long potting.
Hawkins throughout failed to produce the same form which saw him defeat Neil Robertson in a final frame thriller late last night (Wednesday) but if it was not for a little bit of luck here and there, his deficit could have been much worse.
A tense opening frame was won by Murphy, looking to win his second world title, with a break of 92 after initially trailing by more than 30 points.
Hawkins looked a strong favourite to clinch the second frame but a missed red to the middle pocket proved costly as Murphy ruthlessly cleared up the table with a run of 40 to go 2-0 up.
Murphy’s dominant start continued as he had the better of the third frame to go 3-0 ahead.
And it looked like going 4-0 until there was drama on the final black which Murphy potted only to see the cueball flash into the middle pocket at the same time – giving Hawkins his first frame.
Murphy soon made amends after the mid-session interval as he punished a poor break off with a break of 105 to go 4-1 up.
A run of 69 helped Hawkins reduce his arrears back to 4-2 but a fabulous break of 138 – once again after a poor Hawkins break off – and a run of 79 stretched Murphy’s lead to 6-2 at the close of the first session.
The pair resume battle on Friday morning with Hawkins needing a good start or else be in danger of falling too far behind.
The second semi-final between Judd Trump and Stuart Bingham begins this evening with live text and social media updates available on our Live Feed.