ALAN McManus was reduced to the role of spectator last night.
He could only sit quietly on the fringe of the spotlight as Mark Selby shone in the evening session of their quarter-final meeting at the Dafabet World Championship, the world No.3 taking a 12-4 lead into the final session this morning.
The Englishman is now expected to cruise into the final four by collecting the required frame to seal victory in the best-of-25 match. McManus will be left looking on from his seat again should be manage it. The Scot might also consider hiding under the table.
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At 43, his renaissance inside the Crucible - nine years after his last World Championship quarter-final - has been a compelling story at this year's tournament, but it has now entered its final chapter. Having frustrated Selby during the first session McManus was more easily subdued in the evening and a one-frame deficit soon spiralled out of control, with Selby stringing together four consecutive frames to pull away to a 9-4 lead.
It was a return to form and an escape from the agitation of the initial session. Selby had been on the way to a three-frame advantage but, after three lengthy safety contests, McManus emerged from a 40-minute battle to win the frame on the black.
The veteran then levelled the scores heading into the mid-session interval in the morning with a quick-fire break of 81. He returned in good spirits, but perhaps a little out of puff.
The pair made 18 visits each in the fifth frame as McManus snookered Selby behind the green early on to draw five fouls. The Scot won another safety joust to take the lead for the first time in the match.
Yet Selby was able to respond decisively, compiling a 110 break and following with runs of 86 and 87 in the evening to take advantage of errors which began to overwhelm McManus' game. The final frame of the evening was more of a procession for the Englishman, with the Scot conceding the frame and making for the exit. But not for the last time.
The door was left open for reigning champion Ronnie O'Sullivan to mount up a formidable advantage in his match with Shaun Murphy. The latter was unable to find his best form and finished the session trailing the match 6-2.
The pair reconvene this morning and Murphy will hope for the success he showed in the tie initially, as he won the opening two frames to punish a lethargic O'Sullivan. The Rocket would reach a different stratosphere afterwards, though, with his opponent later acknowledging that he will not reach the semi-finals if the champion brings his best form to the table this morning.
He capitalised on mistakes to count up the frames, mopping up the colours to start his comeback after Murphy had failed to hit the cue ball safe in the third frame. A succession of missed pots from both men peppered the next, but Murphy again succumbed and allowed O'Sullivan in on the last red to level at 2-2.
Ominously for Murphy, O'Sullivan seemed refreshed after the mid-session interval and made light work of the fifth frame after rolling in a 72 break. He then added breaks of 94 and 136 to dominate ahead of the final session this morning. Neil Robertson, the world No.1, was less impressive yesterday and trails Judd Trump 6-2 ahead of today's sessions.
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