A break of 47 in tonight’s final frame spared Steve Davis the humiliation of losing his Embassy World Championship quarter-final against Shaun Murphy inside two sessions.
But it still looks like the six-time winner of the title in the 1980s will suffer an emphatic defeat tomorrow afternoon as he trails 12-4, with his 22-year-old opponent needing only one more frame for victory.
The writing was on the wall for Davis as soon as the match began as Murphy, so impressive in his 13-8 win over John Higgins yesterday, continued the terrific break-building he had produced against the Scot.
The youngster raced 7-1 clear helped by contributions of 82, 72 and 58 twice, with Davis so frustrated by his own form he even conceded one frame when there were enough points available to win it.
Tonight’s session was scrappy and error-strewn, the ’Nugget’ clearly out of sorts and Murphy looking edgy for the first time as the winning line drew near, and the match almost did not go into a second day.
However, the 47 from Davis – his highest break since a 110 he had compiled seven frames earlier – ensured there remains the potential for the mother of all comebacks, although that looks highly unlikely.
Stephen Hendry also kicked off with a century tonight, a 138 as he turned a 5-3 deficit against Matthew Stevens into a 7-5 lead before the Welshman hit back to tie the contest at 8-8.
The seven-time former champion had been poor in the morning’s action but took six consecutive frames spread over the two sessions and an exciting conclusion looks in prospect.
Earlier, Peter Ebdon could only sit and watch a Ronnie O’Sullivan masterclass - and admitted he was privileged to be sharing a table with the ‘Rocket’.
O’Sullivan seized control of their quarter-final from the outset, ending the first session with a 6-2 lead after an awesome display of break-building that he made look easy.
A fluked red set in motion a frame-winning 71 in the opener, but that was the only stroke of luck involved as the world number one added further contributions of 137, 101, 79 and 71 to build a healthy advantage.
Even though O’Sullivan continually talks of retiring in a year or two because he is not happy with his game, performances like this put him on a different level to all his rivals.
And while Ebdon has plenty of work to do tomorrow to avoid a fifth defeat in seven meetings with the defending champion, he acknowledges snooker would be much the poorer if O’Sullivan did walk away from the sport.
“I just hope Ronnie can stay as sharp as he has been and that he will be okay,” said the 2002 world champion.
“I don’t know how seriously to take what he has been saying but I don’t want anything to happen to him – he’s an absolute genius.
“Snooker needs Ronnie. He is a big personality and I feel very honoured to be competing against him in this era, and for me to occasionally win tournaments when he is around is wonderful.
“Ronnie is an inspirational character. The standard of his game when he beat John Higgins 10-3 in this season’s Masters final was as close to perfection as you will see.
“I’ve had some right beatings off Stephen Hendry but I can’t believe anyone has played better than Ronnie did at Wembley – he only missed three balls in 13 frames.
“He looks awesome physically too – like a greyhound – and has put the work in so he deserves everything he gets. He is a highly-trained athlete and I have the utmost respect for him.”
In the other quarter-final Alan McManus doubled a respotted black to move 5-3 ahead of Ian McCulloch – conqueror of Williams in a nailbiting deciding frame last night – having won five on the spin from 3-0 down.