By Mark Staniforth, PA
Mark Selby and Stuart Bingham faced the prospect of a late-night shoot-out for a place in the World Snooker Championship final after running out of time in their last four clash on Saturday afternoon.
With the start-time of the concluding session of the second semi-final fast approaching, officials hauled the pair off with Selby leading 16-15 and requiring one more frame to reach the sport’s showpiece for the fifth time.
It is the first time in history that the final session of a world semi-final has been interrupted, and with rivals Kyren Wilson and Shaun Murphy preparing to resume at 12-12, it promised to be a late night at the Crucible.
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) May 1, 2021
Selby will be 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 overtime.
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.
But although there was no repeat of the warning Selby received from referee Ben Williams on Friday for slow play, the gruelling nature of many of the frames ensured extra time would be required to determine a winner.
Earlier, Murphy won the final three frames of the morning session to pull himself firmly back into contention against Wilson.
The fired-up former champion, who trailed 10-4 at one stage in the match, clawed his way back to 12-12 ahead of Saturday evening’s conclusion.
Murphy had punched the air in delight after winning the final two frames of Friday afternoon’s session to haul his deficit back to four frames and give himself hope of a recovery.
And although Wilson immediately extended his advantage back to five, Murphy gradually gained the upper hand when play resumed on Saturday and marked a major turning point when he potted a long black to pull back to 11-9.
Once again Murphy betrayed his emotions as he headed for the mid-session interval and, although Wilson took the next to go 12-9, breaks of 120 and 76 helped Murphy establish parity in their best-of-33 encounter.