Ronnie O’Sullivan hit a streak of devastating form to surge ahead of Ali Carter in the Betfred.com World Championship final.
A total clearance of 141 in the final frame of the afternoon carried him into a 5-3 lead in their all-Essex tussle at the Crucible, a match O’Sullivan has revealed could be his last before retiring.
The century, O’Sullivan’s second of the session, followed his 92 in the previous frame.
That rush of heavy scoring from the firm title favourite was barely in keeping with the earlier action, though, because for much of the session the pair were engaged in safety combat.
Carter had got the better of Stephen Maguire on the back of high-precision snooker and intense focus, the influence of Peter Ebdon shining through his play. Ebdon is helping Carter with mental aspects of the game from behind the scenes in Sheffield, and clearly their relationship is proving fruitful.
A break of 56 steered O’Sullivan ahead this afternoon, after the pair spent almost 12 minutes engaged in a safety battle before the first red dropped.
O’Sullivan’s first century, a 117, was triggered by a fine long red and pushed him 2-0 in front.
When the 36-year-old Chigwell man missed from long range in the third frame, Carter punished him with a run to 84.
It was 2-2 after a battle of the minds in frame four, with every red grouped around a corner pocket.
O’Sullivan had the first real chance but spurned it by potting a red when attempting to knock in the black, and Carter seized his chance.
They split the next two frames, before O’Sullivan found the form which carried him to earlier wins over Peter Ebdon, Mark Williams, Neil Robertson and Matthew Stevens – three world champions and a two-time runner-up.
Carter is of course the man O’Sullivan defeated to secure the third of his three world titles, in 2008, by an 18-8 scoreline.
They return tonight to play a further nine frames of the best-of-35 contest.