sport

Murphy books UK final spot

Shaun Murphy staged one of snooker's great fightbacks to leave Ali Carter stunned and book a place in Sunday's final of the UK Championship.

It looked to be Carter's match when he led 8-4 in the best-of-17 contest, but Murphy played like a player transformed after the mid-session interval, with breaks of 76, 49, 105 and 78 forcing a decider.

Murphy had said after yesterday's victory over 17-year-old Luca Brecel that a dressing-room rocket from his manager Brandon Parker had saved him from defeat, and whatever was said this evening behind closed doors clearly also did the trick.

Murphy held his nerve in a tense final frame as breaks of 39 and 29 carried him through to a clash with Mark Selby or Mark Davis, a 9-8 winner.

Carter, who broke down in tears afterwards as he spoke about his continuing battle with Crohn's disease, said: "Shaun's played unbelievably from 8-4 behind. I was in complete control. All credit to Shaun, I can't be too hard on myself."

Speaking about his painful condition, Carter said: "If I could pay to get rid of it, I would."

Carter had been ahead in the decider, reaching 32 before missing a red with the rest. He dropped his head to the baize, knowing the error had presented Murphy with the chance to take frame and match.

Murphy reached 39 but left himself a difficult black. It was stick or twist time and the 30-year-old opted to stick, playing safe, armed with a seven-point lead.

It proved a judicious choice, for when another half-chance came along Murphy rifled in a tough red, especially tough given the circumstances, to the right-centre pocket. That gave him the platform on which to build the match-clinching break.

Murphy said: "I don't feel that Ali lost it - I feel that I won it and I'm really proud.

"I was four down with five to play. It's pretty straightforward and you know where you stand with that.

"For the semis of the UK Championships, when I was all but dead and buried, that's got to be my best five-frame spell ever.

"I can't believe that I won the match. I felt he was going to paste me 9-4. I'm blown away."

Murphy will be bidding for his second UK Championship title, having pipped Marco Fu to the trophy in 2008.

It will be the first all-English final in the UK Championship since Jimmy White beat John Parrott at Preston in 1992.

Carter has reaped the benefits of a diet low in gluten and wheat since admitting after a second-round exit to Mark Allen in York last December that he was considering retirement.

After almost a decade of battling Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel condition, Carter has struck on a diet that allows him to stay focused enough to remain a snooker force.

But the problem can only be managed rather than cured, and there are days when Carter suffers particularly badly.

On the table he looked untroubled for much of today's match, with afternoon breaks of 77 and 101 seeing him seize a 5-3 lead.

When Carter won three of the evening session's opening four frames, he was one away from the final and a 1/40 shot to win the match.

It looked hopeless for Murphy, but his belief never wavered.

The Manchester-based potter knew he could have played better early on, adding: "I left it until the death until I started playing."