Shaun Murphy shrugged off criticism of his "theatrical" celebrations and vowed to entertain his way to a second Crucible crown after sweeping aside Kyren Wilson in their World Snooker Championship semi-final.
Murphy won five frames in a row in the concluding session of their last four clash to turn what was at one stage a 10-4 deficit into a dominant 17-12 victory and a final clash with three-time champion Mark Selby, who sealed a belated victory over Stuart Bingham.
Murphy’s frequent fist-pumps did not go down well with Wilson, who accused his opponent of being “a bit over-the-top and theatrical”, but Murphy retorted: “We are in a theatre and we are putting on a show.
“We are in the entertainment business. Everybody’s been locked up and isolated for the past year and they want to see a show, and it’s our job to put on a show and entertain them.
“There is more to winning major snooker events in front of live audiences than just hitting the cue ball in a straight line. There’s a lot more that goes into it than on-the-table theatrics, and maybe that’s a stone Kyren hasn’t looked under yet.”
Murphy, playing some of his best snooker at the venue since he sailed to the title as an unfancied qualifier in 2005, had staged a series of mini-comebacks, including winning the final two frames on Friday to finish 10-6 behind overnight, then potting a brilliant long-black to close the gap to 11-9.
After winning the final three frames of the morning session to level at 12-12, Murphy returned with a session of near-faultless snooker, seizing on a series of errors from last year’s losing finalist to reel off five consecutive half-centuries and win the match.
It marked a stunning return to form for the Dublin-based player, who had struggled to find any semblance of form during the long days of lockdown, many of which he spent isolated in Milton Keynes due to restrictions on travelling back and forth to his home in Ireland.
“There were serious moments in the last 12 months when I thought my runs to these days of this event were dead and buried,” admitted Murphy. “No-one is more surprised but also more thrilled about this than me.”
Selby’s progress to his fifth Crucible final could hardly have come as a greater contrast, in a match in which he had been warned for slow play on Friday, then was forced to complete his win in an unprecedented period of overtime.
With Selby up 16-15 as the afternoon session ticked beyond 6pm, the pair were hauled off to make way for the return of Murphy and Wilson, marking the first time in the tournament’s history that a semi-final has been interrupted.
The gruelling progress did not bother Selby, who insisted: “I’m just out there to do a job and as long as I get to that magic number I couldn’t care less how I play.
“If I need to get to 17 first I’d be out there for five days if I needed to, it wouldn’t bother me one bit. Obviously you want to go out there and play well, and if you play well you are entertaining the crowd anyway.”
Selby was left kicking himself for causing the delay after compiling what looked set to be a match-winning break of 44 in the 31st frame, only to run out of position and let in Bingham for a nerveless 85 clearance which forced the additional session.
Selby had resumed trailing 13-11 but dominated the session, a break of 125 hauling him level at 13-13 then, after Bingham responded with a century of his own, three frames in a row put the Leicester man firmly in control.
Selby added: “Even though we got pulled off, I thought to myself, I was 13-11 down and if I’d been told then we would be pulled off at 16-15 up, I would have snapped your hand off.
“I just had to take the positives. Even though it was tough to lose the last frame the way I did, I was still confident that I’d get a chance and it was just a matter of staying calm and taking that chance when it came.”