Ronnie O’Sullivan should today reap reward for the scintillating session of snooker which carried him to the brink of another Crucible victory over Mark Williams.
Three-time champion O’Sullivan, 36, fired two centuries and four further hefty breaks in converting a 5-3 cushion into an 11-5 lead. His runs were of 107, 74, 51, 68, 128 and 93 and he needs two more frames this evening to reach the quarter-finals.
Williams arrested a run of nine straight frames against him by taking the final two of the day, to stave off the looming threat of a two-session humiliation.
But O’Sullivan’s remarkable record against the Welshman looked set to continue.
Not since the Thailand Masters in early 2002 has Williams beaten O’Sullivan, who barring any collapse, will face a quarter-final against Australia’s 2010 world champion Neil Robertson.
Williams, world champion in 2000 and 2003, has tackled O’Sullivan and lost every time in Sheffield in 2006, 2008 and 2010.
Although it was day nine of the World Championship, it contained perhaps the moment at which the tournament took off.
That came at 2.55pm, when O’Sullivan completed a tremendous 107 break in the opening frame of the afternoon session, while on the opposite side of the arena Judd Trump sealed a run of 120.
Snooker’s two biggest box-office stars united the auditorium, spectators on both sides in raptures.
The century breaks set the tone for the afternoon but perhaps also the rest of the tournament. Given they are on opposite sides of the draw, the dream ticket of a Trump-O’Sullivan final is a possibility.
Trump was also back to his magnificent best against Ali Carter in their second-round contest.
The 22-year-old at last looked a viable trophy contender as he came from 5-3 behind to build a 9-7 lead over Carter, heading into their concluding session this afternoon.
Trump was troubled by food poisoning as he beat Dominic Dale in round one, and the performance was again lacklustre as he fell behind to Carter on Saturday, but to win six frames from eight yesterday was impressive work.
Jamie Jones, the 24-year-old qualifier from near Neath, was faring better than countryman Williams as he moved 10-6 ahead of second-round opponent Andrew Higginson, the 34-year-old Widnes cueman.
World number 36 Jones had breaks of 95 and 101, plus a gutsy clearance of 39 to pinch the final frame, doubling in the black to open up his four-frame lead, and Carter or Trump await the winner.
Another Welshman, two-time Crucible runner-up Matthew Stevens, scored heavily at times in the opening two sessions against Barry Hawkins as he fired in three century breaks, 101, 122 and 123.
But Hawkins led for much of the way and they return this afternoon tied at 8-8.