Shaun Murphy made a determined move towards completing a career triple crown as he took a 6-2 lead after the first session of his Masters final against Neil Robertson.
World number one Robertson had lit up the Alexandra Palace with his form in 6-1 wins over Ali Carter and Ronnie O’Sullivan but found himself 5-0 down before finally responding in the final.
Murphy, world champion in 2005 and UK champion in 2008, had breaks of 64, 127, 76 and 69 and will return for the evening session requiring just four more frames for victory.
The first of those came in the opening frame and he won the second after Robertson had battled on for snookers on the colours.
That wonderful clearance of 127 made it 3-0 and though he missed a long opening red in the next, Robertson’s own long potting continued to let him down as he missed a brown and Murphy, following a lovely shot to free the black, took his chance with 76 to sweep the pre-interval frames.
The first frame back was poor but Murphy stepped up with a clearance of 43 to the pink to take it.
Robertson finally got on the board with an 80 in frame six but Murphy knocked in a good starter in the next and converted into a frame-winning 69 – along the way, potting two reds in one shot.
The Australian, therefore, desperately needed to win the final frame of the session and was in first with 43 – but he had to weather a contribution of 49 from Murphy and escape from a tricky snooker before getting across the line.