STUART BINGHAM twice recovered from precarious positions to remain in contention for his first World Championship title after a gripping start to the final against Shaun Murphy.
The 38-year-old hit back on two separate occasions to reduce Murphy to a 9-8 overnight lead during an entertaining first two sessions of this year’s grand final.
However despite Bingham’s late rally, it was Murphy who had the better of the first day of the final which never saw him go behind throughout the first two opening sessions.
But just like his semi-final win over Judd Trump, Bingham showed he could rise to the occasion – the biggest match of his life – as he recovered from bad starts to each session to stay firmly in the hunt for his first world title.
Murphy has been in great form throughout the whole tournament compiling big wins against Robin Hull, Joe Perry, Anthony McGill and Barry Hawkins – and he took that form into the start of the his third World Championship final as breaks of 68, 59 and 65 handed him a 3-0 lead.
But Bingham, who showed tremendous steel in his game to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan and Trump, responded to Murphy’s early onslaught well as breaks of 105 and 56 got him back to 3-2 either side of the mid-session interval.
Murphy hit back with a break of 90 but Bingham ensured he was on level terms at the close of the opening session winning the next two frames to make it 4-4.
Bingham made a decent start to the second session but a good break of 57 came to an end when he missed a simple red to the corner pocket. Murphy then cleared with a break of 74 to go back ahead at 5-4.
The next frame was of a similar pattern as Bingham missed a blue to the middle centre pocket and Murphy cleared with a 106. And the same happened in frame 11 as a missed plant shot from Bingham was once again punished by Murphy who made a 121 break to 7-4 in front.
Murphy appeared to be running away with the final and his lead extended to four frames when a break of 51 earned him an 8-4 lead at the mid-session interval.
But on several times throughout this tournament Bingham has shown his metal to win important frames at crucial times and once again he fought back brilliantly to restrict Murphy’s lead.
After the restart a much needed run of 76 reduced his arrears to 8-5 before Bingham put helped re-write the record books as a break of 123 became the 84th century of this year’s tournament setting a new Crucible record. Bingham then back back to just a single frame behind with a break of 89 to make it 8-7.
Murphy hit back in the session’s penultimate frame with a break of 76 but Bingham ensured he did not go three frames behind overnight as he won the final frame to leave the final beautifully poised with Murphy leading 9-8.
MATCH OF QUALITY
THIS FINAL HAS PRODUCED A GREAT STANDARD SO FAR WITH 15 OUT OF THE 16 FRAMES PLAYED ALL FEATURING AT LEAST ONE BREAK OF 50 OR MORE