Ronnie O’Sullivan’s bid for a sixth Crucible crown remains in the balance after a superb Kyren Wilson fightback in the World Snooker Championship final.
O’Sullivan led 8-2 early in the second session but saw his lead whittled down in Sheffield, pegged back to 10-7 at the halfway stage.
Neither played their best snooker on the table but Wilson certainly found his form in the latter stages of his maiden final, reeling off four successive frames to close the gap.
The scoreline could have been even better for the Kettering cueman, looking set to make it five on the bounce – only to pot a red and blue together to concede a foul and lose the 15th frame.
But he restored his composure to take the next frame with a century break, keeping him in with a chance of victory when the two play to a conclusion on Sunday evening.
For the first time since the opening day, crowds were permitted into the Crucible Theatre with a raucous atmosphere created despite the limited numbers.
Both players came into the match off the back of epic semi-final deciders – O’Sullivan getting the better of Mark Selby while Wilson defeated Anthony McGill, both 17-16.
Unsurprisingly, neither player could quite live up to the expectation of Friday’s efforts, missing out on opportunities as they shared the first two frames.
Breaks of 80, 75 and 106 then saw the Rocket, five times a champion in Sheffield, take control of the match, leading 6-2 by the end of the first session in this best-of-35 encounter.
That advantage quickly became 8-2 with Wilson needing a drastic change in form and fortune to get himself back into the contest.
And that’s exactly what the first-time finalist did, breaks of 92 and 50 seeing him start to produce the snooker which saw him knock defending champion Judd Trump out of the tournament.
Trailing 8-4 at the mid-session interval, Wilson’s ever-impressive long potting finally showed up in the biggest match of his life, narrowing the gap to 8-6 to leave O’Sullivan on the ropes with three frames remaining.
It seemed that Wilson would bring the contest back to 8-7 but luck deserted him when potting the blue and inadvertently knocking a red into the corner when trying to get into position.
That guaranteed a relieved O’Sullivan an overnight lead at 9-6 – a scoreline that would have been the bare minimum having led by six frames earlier in the day.
But world No.8 Wilson kept fighting, producing his first century break at an opportune time to bring the scores to 9-7.
By now, Wilson was matching performance with confidence, looking far more assured when taking on difficult pots.
Both players had their shares of misfortune in the final frame but it was O’Sullivan who took it, going three frames ahead and setting up a tantalisingly session when the two resume on Sunday afternoon.
The game will then conclude in the evening – with the first to 18 frames to be crowned world snooker champion after a dramatic 17 days in Sheffield.
Live snooker returns to Eurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship from 31st July – 16th August with analysis from Jimmy White.