Mark Selby and Kurt Maflin booked a semi-final clash at the Baic Motor China Open, both scoring narrow 5-4 victories on Friday.
Selby edged out Rob Milkins, a result which ended Milkins’ hopes of gaining a top 16 seeding for the Betfred World Championship, and means instead that Stephen Maguire takes the 16th and last automatic slot and avoids having to qualify for the Crucible.
Milkins led four times, making a top break of 128, but each time World Champion Selby fought back to level, and he eventually won the decider 71-0.
“I feel as if Rob was the better player throughout the match, yet somehow I’m sitting here having won,” said Selby, chasing his second ranking title of the season having won the German Masters two months ago. “It’s a shame for Rob that he missed out on an automatic Crucible place, maybe that was in the back of his mind today. But if he plays like that, there’s no reason why he can’t win three matches to qualify.
“I had a bit of run of the ball today, which was the difference between winning and losing.”
Norway-based Maflin reached the second ranking semi-final of his career – and first since the 2013 Players Championship – with a fine win over Shaun Murphy.
Masters champion Murphy led 3-1 before Maflin knocked in breaks of 89 and 103 to get back to 3-3. Murphy regained the lead with a 61 but Maflin took the last two frames with runs of 74 and 73.
Maflin hadn’t won more than one match in any previous ranking event this season, but has now won five in this event. The 31-year-old said: “It was a good match and I played solid stuff from 3-1 down. I think I’m capable of winning a tournament, and that’s what I’m here to do. I’ve been scoring heavily, I’m happy with the way I’m playing and hopefully I can keep getting stronger.”