But much has changed in the 16 years since his unlikely victory as a qualifier, Murphy now lives in Ireland and at 38 is one of the game’s elder statesmen.
He has won everything in the sport, which makes his recent record in Sheffield all the more surprising.
He resumes his semi-final against Kyren Wilson on Friday afternoon, trailing 6-2 in their best-of-33 encounter, but it is his first time at the one-table set-up since 2015, when he lost to Stuart Bingham in the final.
“The Crucible has been a house of horrors for me to come back to every year since 2015,” admitted Murphy.
“I had only won two matches here in the last five years. Usually I’d be at home now watching it on the sofa so I’m very excited to be here.”
The all-English semi-final lineup features three former world champions, Mark Selby is locked at 4-4 with Bingham when they resume on Friday morning.
But it is the absence of defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, in-form Neil Robertson and world No 1 Judd Trump which has surprised many.
World No 7 Murphy accounted for Trump 13-11 in the quarter-finals, to reach the last four for the fifth time in his career.
“It was epic, it was a really high quality match,” Murphy said.
“I’m not an O’Sullivan, a Williams or a Higgins where runs to semis and finals of this event are commonplace.
“My career has taken a different path. These matches are a big deal. I will savour it because Judd has been the best player on the planet for the last two years.
“I have won a match that nobody expected me to win.
“Without doubt it’s one of my best wins of recent years. Judd threw everything at me. But at 11-11 it was the calmest I felt all night because the equation was simple, I still had to win two frames.
“I have played enough of those matches to know that I will get a chance, I just had to be patient.”
Against Wilson, Murphy took the first frame of the evening with a 74 break, but went in at the mid-session break 3-1 down as Wilson – who beat Robertson in the quarter-finals – responded with knocks of 110 and 72.
Wilson was starting to take early control of the match – officiated by Sheffield referee Brendan Moore – and returned with back-to-back century breaks of 127 and 121 to go 5-1 ahead.
Murphy ended a five-frame losing streak, cutting the deficit with a 71 clearance to the pink and looked set to pinch frame eight – after Wilson’s initial 70 break – but a missed red to the centre pocket proved costly to trail 6-2 overnight, after the first of their four scheduled sessions.
Murphy and Wilson – last year’s losing finalist – are no strangers, both hailing from Northamptonshire.
Murphy explained: “Kyren and I grew up close together, I was in Irthlingborough and he was in Kettering, and there’s an intense rivalry between those two towns, though Kyren and I get on very well, we have practised a lot together.
“He is now a course and distance runner here, he builds his whole life around performing well here. It’s going to be tough.”
Three-time world champion Selby struggled in the opening session against Bingham, who had to go through qualifiers just to reach the Crucible this year.
Bingham knocked in a 60 break to take the first frame, but then fell 3-1 behind as he got dragged into a low-scoring, tactical game. Bingham was on a break of 46 before missing a blue but then Selby, with a chance to clean up failed on a yellow at 56-31, although it was not to prove detrimental as he later cut in a brilliant long yellow and cleared the table.
Selby took the next two frames with high breaks of 33 and 46, but Bingham looked a different player when they returned from their mid-session break.
A 92-break – the highest of the afternoon – immediately made it 3-2 before in the next frame Selby’s foul potting a red as he sank the blue offered Bingham, who had opened up with 36, the chance to return to the table and a break of 38 levelled things up.
Bingham breezed through the seventh with a run of 82 but after missing a brown on a break of 42, Selby responded to take the final frame 73-42.
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