Ronnie O'Sullivan was pegged back by Shaun Murphy as the final of the Betway UK Championship got under way in York.
The last two men standing at the York Barbican have for years experienced a tense relationship, with sniping from both sides, but Murphy has recently attempted to patch things up.
That removed some of the edge from their latest encounter but there was plenty riding on the best-of-19-frame showdown, with silverware and a £170,000 top prize.
And on the table Murphy was holding his own against the man who was seeking a record-equalling sixth UK title, with O'Sullivan losing the final two frames of the afternoon to be level at 4-4 going into the evening.
Murphy, the 2005 world champion, said it was a "dream come true" to be facing O'Sullivan on one of snooker's biggest stages and labelled his opponent "a sporting phenomenon".
The concern for Murphy was that he might be "a rabbit in the headlights", and at times he looked fallible, but a pair of gutsy breaks when the pressure was mounting gave O'Sullivan plenty to think about.
O'Sullivan has reached the stage of his career where he regularly ticks off major milestones. He recently passed the 900-century career mark, the first player to achieve that feat, and victory in York would take him level with Steve Davis' haul of six UK Championship triumphs.
It would also put him alongside Stephen Hendry on 18 Triple Crown titles, following O'Sullivan's five World Championship wins and seven Masters triumphs.
For Murphy, who landed this title in 2008, there was the opportunity to beat O'Sullivan in a major final for the second time in four weeks, following his success at the Champion of Champions event in November.
They traded early heavy punches, Murphy with a nerve-settling 123 break followed by O'Sullivan inching in front with runs of 62 and 103.
Murphy needed to make his presence felt and a steady break of 69 when 4-2 behind did just that. And when Murphy jumped on a missed red from O'Sullivan to clear w