Shaun Murphy defeated Mark Williams 6-4 in a thrilling encounter at the Betfred Masters in Milton Keynes.
Triple Crown winner Murphy, who won the Masters in 2015, has endured a difficult season to this point. Since reaching the semi-finals of the European Masters in September, the Magician has failed to go beyond the last 32 stage of any ranking event.
World number seven Murphy will now face defending champion Stuart Bingham in the quarter-finals. Bingham defeated Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 6-4 this afternoon.
Welshman Williams now trails Murphy 10-6 in their head-to-head record. The three-time World Champion exits the Masters in the opening round for fifth time in his last six appearances.
This evening’s high quality encounter got off to a pulsating start, with Murphy firing in a sublime break of 93 to take the opener. Williams immediately levelled with a century run of 108, before Murphy claimed the third to lead 2-1.
The fourth frame came to a fascinating conclusion. With Murphy requiring the pink and black, he fluked the pink before taking on and potting a phenomenal black down the right cushion to establish a 3-1 advantage at the mid-session.
When they returned, Williams fired in his second 108 break of the evening and went on to take the sixth and restore parity at 3-3. They then traded frames, before Murphy made his burst for the line.
The Englishman crafted a contribution of 81 to move a frame from victory at 5-4. Williams had looked set to force a decider, but it was Murphy who stole the frame with a fine clearance of 47 to steal on the black and win 6-4.
Murphy said: “Any time you rock up against one of those players, they test every aspect of your game. I knew going into that match that Mark might shine a very bright light on any weaknesses I was showing. I was a bit frustrated through the game, because I made all of the running in the match and at 4-4, I was wondering how I’d only won four frames. I played really well and played all of the attacking shots. I put that to bed and I was very proud of myself the way I won the match.
“Every time Stuart Bingham has played recently it looked as if he was going to make a 147. He is one of the best scorers we have seen in the game. He perhaps doesn’t get the credit he deserves for that, he is an immense scorer. I definitely think he is favourite for the match, on current form and as defending champion. I am going to go out, give it my best and hopefully get to six first.”