Shaun Murphy repelled a strong comeback from Judd Trump to sink the world number one 13-11 and seal his place in the semi-finals of the Betfred World Snooker Championship for the first time since 2015.
Former champion Murphy saw a 10-6 lead evaporate as Trump reeled off five of the first six frames of the evening session, hauling himself level in the match with a clearance of 111.
But Trump never looked entirely comfortable and, having seemingly done the hard work, it was the 2019 winner who faltered in the next, a missed black off its spot enabling Murphy to nudge back in front with a coolly-taken break of 70.
A sloppy safety by Trump in the next frame served up the simplest of opportunities for Murphy to compile what proved to be a match-winning break of 62.
Murphy said he hoped his win marked the start of an overdue change in his fortunes, having endured a difficult few years on and off the table, made harder by lockdown regulations affecting travel from his home in Ireland.
Murphy told the PA news agency: “There have been some very dark days, times when in all honesty had I had a good paying job to go to, I would have sacked it off.
“Maybe this week turns my bad season around a little bit. I don’t think one good run can delete 20 bad ones, but I’m two wins away from capping off a very bad year in a very good way.”
The 2005 world champion added: "This year has been tough for everyone. I don't know anyone who is thriving or going from strength to strength in life at the moment.
"We are grateful and thankful our events have carried on but it has come with problems as well. We are all just people.
"I have personally found life on the tour very difficult. Not living on this island has been very complicated and meant a lot of time in isolation away from my family, losing matches and not really knowing what to do with myself.
"There were strong doubts [over a return to form]. On the way home I was saying to myself, 'I think your best days are behind you here. It's time to look at the punditry and have one eye on a different career.'"
It marked a disappointing end to the season for Trump, who had strengthened his position as world number one by winning five ranking tournaments this season, but must wait to add to the solitary world title he claimed in 2019.
Trump told Eurosport: “I’d given up really, I didn’t think anything was going to happen.
“I didn’t play well and Shaun really struggled. At 11-11 if I didn’t miss that black I was in full control, and I let him back in easy. It was mine to lose and it is disappointing I didn’t make it harder for him.”
Murphy will face Kyren Wilson in the last four after the 2020 runner-up won five frames in succession to see off former champion Neil Robertson 13-8.
Starting the day finely poised at 8-8, a total clearance of 133 gave Wilson the opening frame after Robertson fluffed an attempt to mimic Mark Williams’ controversial break-off technique.
The Australian, still seeking an elusive second world crown, made a series of costly errors in the subsequent frames and Wilson wrapped up victory with a break of 84.
“I still don’t think I’ve hit my peak, I’m just gritty,” Wilson told the BBC. “I’m trying my heart out in every session, if it’s not quite going for me I won’t give in, I’ll keep fighting and try and get the best result I can.”
Mark Selby continued his timely resurgence as he completed a 13-3 thrashing of fellow three-time champion Mark Williams with a session to spare.
Resuming their eagerly-anticipated quarter-final with a 6-2 lead, Selby reeled off four frames in a row with the aid of breaks of 96, 58 and 66 before Williams stopped the rot with a run of 79.
However, the Welshman was already resigned to his fate and, despite successfully producing a bizarre four-cushion break-off shot, two more half-centuries saw Selby claim the three frames he needed to complete a 13-3 victory.
Selby told the PA news agency: “Really happy with the way I played from start to finish. I’ve not eased off at any stage since the start of the tournament which is nice, because you know you’re going to play some bad sessions.
“I’m just trying to go back to basics really, making sure I give every shot 100 per cent and it seems to be working at the moment. I don’t seem to be missing anything silly and not really giving my opponents many easy chances.”
Vanquished Williams sang the praises of his opponent, insisting: “Forget about (Judd) Trump and (Neil) Robertson and (Kyren) Wilson and all these – if they’re all playing well Selby’s different class to the lot of them.”
Selby will face Stuart Bingham who secured an emotional return to the one-table set-up for the first time since he won the Crucible title in 2015.
Bingham fired a 125 clearance, which he described as “definitely the best of my career” in the deciding frame of an absorbing contest against Ronnie O’Sullivan’s conqueror, Anthony McGill.
Bingham had won five straight frames from 10-7 down to go one frame from victory, only for the Scot to battle back to force a second consecutive decider.
Close to tears, Bingham told the PA news agency: “It feels just as emotional to get back to the one-table set-up as it did for the first time in 2015.
“It’s just the Holy Grail of the sport and I’m proud of the way I held it together because it’s not easy playing under that kind of pressure.”