Shaun Murphy could not hide his delight after dumping six-time champion Stephen Hendry out of the Masters at Wembley with a 6-4 triumph.
The 2005 world champion surrendered a presentable chance of wrapping up a 6-3 victory in the ninth frame and could have found himself facing a decider had he not potted a fortunate blue to seal a 6-4 triumph.
The 27-year-old told the World Snooker website: “Any match against Stephen is a major event so I’m delighted to win. It was a high standard with big breaks and good safety.
“To win the biggest three events would be a boyhood dream come true. My record in this tournament isn’t great – I normally watch it from home so I’m not sure I want to break my routine!
“The majority of the crowd were supporting Stephen. The tide has turned since the 1990s when people wanted him to lose. Now he’s a legend. When I went to the table and people shouted ’come on Stephen’, that was free inspiration for me.”
Hendry, meanwhile, cut a downcast figure after he missed a simple green in that final frame to allow Murphy’s slice of fortune to seal his fate.
“There are no excuses for missing that green. It was part twitch and part changing my mind. I didn’t put a good cue action on it. I played ok, but to lose because of that miss is hard to take, because Shaun was getting nervous. It’s frustrating because when I play well, the other guy seems to play well too.”
Murphy started proceedings strongly with an opening half-century break on his way to taking the first frame.
Hendry hit back with a top-quality break of 114 – the first century of this year’s event – followed by a 79 to go 2-1 up.
Murphy triumphed in a cagey fourth frame and took the next two to go 4-2 ahead before a second three-figure break from Hendry, this time 104, put him back in the hunt.
The response from Murphy was emphatic though, as he made a break of 106 in the next frame.
The clash could have been over had Murphy not carelessly lost control of the table at 5-3 up and 43-14 ahead. Instead Hendry managed to pull it back to 5-4.
The final frame was a fascinating affair, with Murphy at one stage leaving his opponent needing a snooker. The Scot duly obliged by putting his English opponent in trouble, with the white tucked in behind the black, and Murphy missed the blue.
But the match was eventually ended when Murphy attempted a safety and nudged in the blue, prompting Hendry to concede.
Murphy will now play Mark Williams or Ali Carter in the next stage after the former saw off outsider Rory McLeod.
Williams brushed aside the qualifier 6-2 to set up tomorrow’s meeting with Carter.
McLeod won the qualifying event to make his debut in the main tournament at the age of 38, crushing Andrew Higginson 6-1 in the final, but struggled to match his more decorated opponent.
The Welshman admitted even getting to Wembley had been achievement, given the current wintry weather.
He said: “My sponsor gave me a 4x4 to allow me to get to practice and get over here. It’s awful back at home, even now there’s over two foot of snow.”
The final game of the day saw world number two Stephen Maguire grind out a 6-3 victory over Mark King in a scrappy encounter.
King, who knocked out Jimmy White yesterday, held a 2-1 lead before Maguire constructed a break of 121 to level at 2-2.
King quickly re-established his lead but it was the Scot who was showing the more fluency and breaks of 78 and 87 moved him to within a frame of victory.
The 28-year-old secured the win in style with a break of 82 and will now face Ryan Day or Joe Perry in the quarter-finals.