Selby sets up Murphy showdown
Mark Selby returned to the top of the world snooker rankings on Saturday night, qualifying for his first UK Championship final in the process.
The 29-year-old needed five of the nine available frames on Saturday evening to convert his 6-2 mid-session lead in his semi-final with Mark Davis into a winning 9-4 score, finishing well ahead of schedule and giving himself time to rest ahead of Sunday's final with Shaun Murphy.
He will start that match knowing he has regained the number one spot he lost to Judd Trump five weeks ago, taking advantage of Trump's failure to get past the first round of the defence of his title in York.
It is now anyone's guess as to who will prevail out of Murphy and Selby, two evenly-matched players who often fly under the radar at major tournaments. Here they have outlasted the more fancied likes of Mark Allen, John Higgins, Neil Robertson and Trump.
In truth this was not the toughest test Selby could have had to return to top billing, with Davis, enjoying a late-career renaissance at the age of 40, failing to deliver in his third major semi-final of the season.
After a poor afternoon the St Leonards man needed a strong start this evening and seemed to have got one when he got his hand on the table, but he over-cut a red and let Selby in, with a 64 to the blue good enough.
Davis at least responded to stop a march to victory, breaking down on 50 not preventing him from taking the next, but his awful safety attempt early in the 11th yielded a double-kiss and Selby swooped to plunder a 76 to move to within a frame of the win.
That did not arrive in the next - Davis dragged the match into the interval by taking a nasty one - but the one after, outscoring his opponent over a number of visits to the table as pots went awry.
Selby had laid the foundations for the victory in a dominant afternoon session, during which Davis was unable to find the form which he displayed in earlier-round wins over the likes of John Higgins and Matthew Stevens.
Despite scores of 121 and 80 it was hardly vintage snooker from Selby, who got his nose in front with 48 in the opener and then posted his century.
A 41 made it three, before Davis opened his account with a tidy 76, but Selby made it 4-1 by hanging toughest in a horrible-to-watch fifth, with both players guilty of missing routine reds.
Selby was slicker in the next, capitalising on Davis' failure to cover a red to the middle early on and making 35 before coming back to the table with an 81, but his failure to get past 49 in the next - he missed a mid-range brown - let Davis in for a nerveless clearing 80.
Five-three would have been okay for Davis, but Selby ensured he was in total control at the end of the session, a 51 his highest score as he took the last of the afternoon.