John Higgins could not shake off the challenge of qualifier Mark Selby as the 888.com World Championship final headed for a thrilling – and early hours of the morning – climax at the Crucible Theatre.
The pair shared the opening four frames of the evening session spanning two hours to leave Higgins holding a narrow 14-12 advantage – with still a possible nine frames to play.
But most of the plaudits were for Selby who looked as if he faced mission impossible when trailing 12-4 overnight in the best of 35 encounter – a deficit from which no-one has recovered to win in the history of the tournament.
The Leicester potter completed a sparkling whitewash of a stunned Higgins in the truncated afternoon session.
He won all six frames with some deadly potting while his out-of-sorts opponent managed a top break of 36.
Higgins would have been the more happy of the two players to see two frames lopped off to allow them a reasonable break before the final session and he instantly looked to be cueing better.
A run of 58 was his first half-century of the second day but Selby was still in contention until he missed the final red over the middle pocket and 1998 world champion Higgins cleared the colours to the black.
Higgins looked in command of the next with the aid of a 43 only for Selby to hold his nerve and a superb 41 clearance in a 35-minute frame.
The high scoring of earlier of a match which has produced four centuries was not as evident and a 48 was sufficient for Higgins to move 14-11 ahead.
The highlight of the afternoon session had been an impressive 109 break from Selby.
It was his 12th century of the tournament – more than anyone else – and took the overall tally for the fortnight to 67, only one short of the record total set in 2002.
Right from the outset Selby seemed in a relaxed frame of mind and joked and laughed with members of the audience which included a sizeable following from his native Leicester.
But he has shown his durability already in this tournament in winning last frame shoot-outs with Ali Carter and Shaun Murphy in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.