Shaun Murphy beat Mark Selby 6-5 in a thrilling opening match at the Dafabet Masters despite squandering a 5-1 lead.
Selby had previously won 11 out of 11 deciding frame matches at the Masters – and captured the title three times – but this time he was unable to complete a trademark fight-back. The World Champion faces an early trip back to Leicester after losing in the first round for only the second time at snooker’s biggest invitation event.
A near capacity crowd at the 1,700-seater Alexandra Palace were treated to an exciting contest which was eventually resolved when Murphy got the better of a tense 36-minute deciding frame. The Manchester-based cueman goes through to a quarter-final tie with Stephen Maguire or Judd Trump. Murphy, who won four tournaments in 2014, was runner-up here in 2012 and has been a losing semi-finalist in each of the last two years, but still needs the Masters to complete the Triple Crown, having won the World Championship in 2005 and the UK Championship in 2008.
Selby started strongly with a break of 100 but then lost focus as his opponent surged into a 5-1 lead with top breaks of 92, 55 and 56. The momentum then swung in Selby’s favour as he won the seventh frame in three scoring visits and the eighth with a run of 120.
Murphy had a clear chance in the next but missed the black when leading 44-12, and Selby’s cool 54 clearance made it 5-4. A run of 92 from Selby got him back on level terms.
The key moment of the decider came when Selby, trailing 23-12 with several reds in the open, missed the black off its spot. Murphy compiled a break of 40, including excellent pots on two vital reds, which proved enough for victory.
Murphy, who was watched live for the first time by fiancée Elaine, said: “At 5-1 I knew it wasn’t over because I’ve seen Mark come back so many times. He’s the worst player on tour to have a lead against, because he relaxes and goes for his shots, and most of them go in.
“Apart from missing a black at 5-3, I didn’t feel as if I did that much wrong. The balls went messy in the last frame and when I got a chance I felt as if I had one arm tied behind my back. Snooker can be like that sometimes.
“This is such a great event because every match could be the final. The crowd come to see the best in the world. I will go home now for a few days and come back fresh for my next match.”
Selby said: “I started well but then lost concentration, and Shaun played well to go 5-1 up. I dug in and turned it around and I was confident at 5-5. But every credit to Shaun because he made a good break in the last frame.”