Joe Perry scored a tremendous 6-1 win over Ding Junhui to reach the semi-finals of the Dafabet Masters for the first time.
World number nine Perry came into this week in poor form having failed to go beyond the last 16 of any tournament since October. But he has produced some excellent snooker in beating both Ding and Stuart Bingham by 6-1 scorelines.
The 42-year-old from Chatteris, who had only once before reached the quarter-finals of the Masters, now faces Barry Hawkins on Saturday evening for a place in the final and is already guaranteed a £50,000 pay day. Victory over Hawkins would put him into the final of Triple Crown event for the first time.
It was a lacklustre display from China’s Ding who made too many unforced errors as his usually-accurate potting radar went awry. Perry took the first four frames with a top break of just 55.
The Englishman extended his lead after the interval, making a 63 in frame five, before Ding finally showed some resistance as a superb long red set up a run of 54 which helped him make it 5-1. But when he missed a red to a corner pocket early in the seventh frame, he could only sit and watch as Perry finished in style with a break of 127.
Ding was well below his best
“It doesn’t get much better than that,” said Perry, who won his first ranking title at the 2015 Players Championship. “Ding is one of the greatest players the game has ever seen. We all know what he’s capable of. I just felt like I controlled the match from start to finish, so that’s a real feather in my cap.
“I came in here with no form. So it’s nice to play with no expectations. I think I stole Neil Robertson’s long game tonight because my long potting was the strongest part of my game. My safety was good. I kept control of the table.
“I’d rather never play Barry again, for the simple reason he’s my best mate on the tour. On the plus side of that, one of us is going to be in the final. I’m sure whoever wins will congratulate the other and wish them all the best and hope they go on and win it.
“When I won my first ranking title, that did get a big monkey off my back. I always believed I was good enough to win one. I don’t think age is a barrier in our game, it’s all about desire and dedication.
“I dreamed about this moment many times when I was younger. My first ever visit to a snooker tournament was watching Jimmy White play Ray Reardon in the Masters at the Wembley Conference Centre. My dad picked me up from school and I just dreamed that one day I would play in that tournament. Now to have a chance of playing in a final here is amazing.”