Shaun Murphy looks to have the early edge in his battle with Barry Hawkins at the Crucible. After their first session of the semi-final, the 2005 champion had built up an impressive 6-2 lead. Hawkins' slow start may have had something to do with his late finish in defeating Neil Robertson last night. Murphy made few allowances for that possibility as his potting supremacy gave him the advantage over his rival.

Murphy almost scored a whitewash in the mini-session before a short break. Leading 3-0 already in frames, he missed countless opportunities to take the fourth as well.

In fact he handed the frame to his opponent by going in off the black to narrow the gap to 3-1. Even that mistake followed a wonderful thinly cut black pot that deserved far better than to find the centre pocket with the cue ball. For all his potting prowess, Murphy has sometimes been derided for not killing off the opposition when in control.

Both players had shown some difficulties in getting used to the pace of the freshly set up table. With just the one table now in operation in the Crucible, the cue men are truly taking centre stage. With that brings additional pressure and focus on them, which Hawkins seemed to be struggling with initially. To reach the final at the World Championship is the pinnacle of a player's career.

One match away from that ambition can be a teasing position to be in. Reaching the final and ultimately winning is the next step. It requires mental fortitude as much as ability though.

Hawkins fared little better after the short interval. His English compatriot continued to dominate proceedings, as a single visit to the table saw him rattle in a 105 break.

That moved Murphy 4-1 ahead, but it was soon back at 4-2 as the 'chaser' reduced his arrears.

Sadly for Hawkins he was powerless to staunch the Murphy momentum in the next two frames. Another flowing break of 138 accounted for frame seven. Hawkins took the early lead in the last frame before the session's end, but Murphy roared back to clinch it.

Usually a half-century break would win most frames of Snooker. Not so though, when your opponent responds with a break of 79 of his own.

The match resumes tomorrow, when Hawkins will need to narrow the gap quickly. Otherwise, it could be another long day for him if Murphy continues his tremendous potting form.