Shaun Murphy was knocked out by Si Jiahui, the world No 80, in a late-night thriller at the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield. Si held his nerve superbly to win a tense deciding frame to produce the biggest upset of the tournament in the most exciting match so far.
Murphy, the world No 4 after winning the Players Championship and Tour Championship in the run-up to the Crucible, trailed the 20-year-old Chinese 5-4 after their first session on Wednesday. Si continued his fine form on Thursday evening to extend his lead to 7-5 and then 9-7. But Murphy produced his best form in adversity, making a 120 break to take the match to a deciding frame.
Si kept his composure to make a 56 in the final frame, only breaking down when splitting the pack after potting a blue and seeing a red run safe when it looked as if it might stay over the corner pocket. Si took on a risky pink to the middle after potting a long red to let Murphy in but he could not take advantage.
After a tense safety exchange, Si came out on top after Murphy missed a red three times in a row when trying to escape from a snooker. The Crucible debutant completed a dramatic victory in style, and will face Robert Milkins in the last 16.
Si has become something of a nemesis for Murphy, who had to apologise to his opponent after his first-round exit to the Chinese at the 2021 UK Championship. Murphy had suggested amateurs should not be taking part and had complained that Si “shouldn’t even be in the building”.
The rant caused an outcry and Murphy later said he regretted the timing of his outburst but said he stood by his point of view. Si is now a professional, and Murphy was full of praise for his opponent after Thursday’s epic first-round battle.
“Nothing but credit to him. I’ve played a lot worse than that [here] and won. I thought we put on a great show; I just lost. I wish him nothing but the best,” Murphy said.
“I did make some mistakes, but I must heap praise on him, he was fabulous. I’ve had a great season, possibly my best ever, and I came here full of confidence really hoping for better than a first-round loss. But I’m proud of how I performed, I never gave up – and in a decider, it can go either way.”
The result follows Judd Trump’s defeat by Anthony McGill on Wednesday. Trump was the No 5 seed and scheduled to meet Murphy in the quarter-finals, so it throws that side of the draw wide open, with McGill facing Jack Lisowski next.
Earlier, Robert Milkins produced a memorable comeback to beat Joe Perry 10-9 in their delayed first-round clash.
Milkins’s match against Perry was interrupted on Monday when a man wearing a Just Stop Oil T-shirt jumped on to table one and tipped orange powder over the cloth.
The crowd from Monday night’s match were given free tickets by event organisers for Thursday’s unscheduled morning session at the Crucible, and they watched Milkins defy the odds to reach the last 16.
Perry started the morning session which began at 9.30am – the earliest start to a world championship match – with a 7-2 lead in the best-of-19 encounter. However, Milkins, who won the Welsh Open in February and is the No 13 seed, took the opening two frames of the session to move to within three frames of his opponent.
Perry responded by winning the next frame only for Milkins to hit back immediately by again moving to within three frames, and then reducing Perry’s lead to two after the former semi-finalist missed a simple brown. Perry then fluffed his lines when potting a red to the middle pocket as Milkins moved just one behind, and then drew level to set up a three-frame shootout.
Milkins clinched the next frame to put him on the brink of glory before Perry scrambled to produce a clearance of 63 and take the match to a decider. But Milkins held his nerve to secure the final frame and seal a memorable fightback.
Mark Selby saw off a determined challenge from qualifier Matthew Selt as the four-time champion started his bid for a fifth crown with a hard-fought 10-8 victory. Selby led 6-3 overnight before moving 8-4 ahead on Thursday afternoon but Selt refused to shrink away in a battle that became increasingly attritional.
But Selby, winner of this event in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2021, reeled off a 112 break with the score poised at 9-8 to close out the win and set up a clash with Gary Wilson in the second round.
Elsewhere, three-time champion Mark Williams and qualifier Luca Brecel were all square at 4-4 after the first session of their second-round encounter. Mark Allen leads Stuart Bingham 5-3 after their session on Thursday evening.