Shaun Murphy dodged a Belgian bullet as Luca Brecel ran into pink peril and bowed out in the quarter-finals of the williamhill.com UK Championship in York.
Seventeen-year-old Brecel was twice on the brink of a famous victory at just his second major tournament.
But the rising star missed crucial pinks in the 10th and 11th frames to allow Murphy to capitalise both times.
The second steal clinched a 6-5 victory for the 2008 UK champion, setting up a semi-final today against Stuart Bingham’s conqueror Ali Carter.
Murphy pointed to strong words at the interval from his manager Brandon Parker as a key factor in his victory.
“Brandon gave me a good talking-to at the interval that would have rivalled one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s half-time talks, and it really knocked me into shape,” Murphy said.
“It’s lucky there were no hairdriers in that dressing room. I think I’d have got one. Without Brandon’s words I would have lost the match.”
He would have gone out anyway if Brecel had been able to put away his chances.
“I thought I’d lost the match a couple of times, I really did think I was out,” Murphy said.
“I think the adrenaline and maybe a little bit of inexperience cost him in the end.
“He over-hit and under-hit a couple of shots, and I’m just relieved.
“The sense of relief and sense of pleasure is probably twice as much as if I’d won 6-0 with four maximum breaks.”
Murphy can see a future champion emerging, and pointed to shades of Stephen Hendry in Brecel’s temperament.
“He’s just not bothered, and as long as he can keep that, that’s what the best champions in the game forever have all had in common,” Murphy said.
“When everyone else is under pressure and feeling it, they just waltz through it like it’s a walk in the park.
“Hendry never used to show any nerves at all and Luca looks like he’s got the same attributes.
“He doesn’t seem to show any nerves, he doesn’t seem to feel any pressure just until the last minute, and it was lucky for me he did.”
The deciding frame had been tipping Murphy’s way before he missed the final red, blaming a kick.
Brecel stepped up and looked to be on a victory march until one bad positional shot caused another.
He could not get close enough to the pink to make it a formality and rattled it around the jaws of a corner pocket. The ball rolled kindly for Murphy who seized the unexpected chance to stay in the tournament.
Brecel said: “Shaun said I played well which was very nice of him.
“I expected to get to the quarter-finals and I had a good chance to win (yesterday) but Shaun deserved to win in the end.
“I’m ready to compete, but I’m only 17 and I’ve got so much time to get better and better,” added Brecel, who became the youngest player to appear at the Crucible in the World Championship in April, beating Hendry’s long-held record.
Carter came through 6-4 against fellow Essex potter Bingham, firing a total clearance of 134 before holding off a charge from the Premier League champion.
Carter reached the UK Championship semi-finals in 2008, losing to Marco Fu, who went on to be beaten by Murphy in the final.
The world No 15 has concerns over his form, and said: “I don’t feel like I’ve played particularly great yet but I’m in the semis and I’d take that.
“I’ll definitely need to play better. I’m going to have to find some form to go on and win the tournament.
“The game got a little bit bogged down but when you’re playing for a semi-final place it’s never easy to get over the line.”
Bingham said: “I think Ali was lucky to go in at 3-1. He just put me in trouble and then he punished me.
“That’s what happens when you get to the quarter-finals – it’s tough because everyone’s sharp.
“It’s always disappointing to lose but I’ll try to take the positives,” he added.