Former champ Murphy on brink of world final return

Shaun Murphy is on the verge of making a third appearance in the World Championship final after racing into a 16-8 lead in his semi-final against Barry Hawkins on Friday.

Murphy, who won the title in 2005 and finished as 2009 runner-up, will resume on Saturday needing only one more final to clinch his place in the Crucible Theatre showpiece.

Murphy began Friday’s evening session leading 13-3, having made breaks of 73, 105, 79, 72, 121 and 54 in a spectacular morning performance, and needed just to share the spoils from their eight-frame session to finish off Hawkins.

But Hawkins made 76 in the final frame of the day to extend the best-of-33 match to a third day.

Even though he still looks certain to be eliminated, Hawkins at least avoided the threat of a 17-3 defeat, which would have been the heaviest semi-final loss in tournament history.

Stephen Hendry took a 17-4 pasting at the hands of Ronnie O’Sullivan at this stage 11 years ago.

It was an entirely different story in the other semi-final, where Stuart Bingham was tearing up the script as he stayed on course to topple Judd Trump.

First-time Crucible semi-finalist Bingham went from 5-3 ahead overnight to 9-7 in front of a misfiring Trump, and remains in the hunt to follow up his quarter-final victory over former champion O’Sullivan with a second major scalp.

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