Neil Robertson overcame early jitters to produce a spirited display and pull level with Mark Selby in their Dafabet World Championship semi-final, setting up what could be an enthralling - and lengthy - final session on Saturday night.
With a final showdown against Ronnie O'Sullivan at stake, Selby twice saw an advantage wiped out by the 2010 champion to leave the scores poised at 12-12, as the pair fought out an extended early session which spilled well into the afternoon and proved compelling viewing for a packed Crucible.
Selby started the day with a 9-7 lead and immediately pushed that out to three frames, with a superb show of skill leading to a break of 104 and the threat of it being a one-sided morning.
However, Robertson settled his nerves with a break of 85 to pull one back, before the Crucible crowd were treated to two intense frames which swung things in the Australian's favour.
Frame 19 lasted 51 minutes as both players fought for the upper hand. Yet it was Robertson who slowly totted up the points and although Selby threatened a comeback with a break of 38, a few more telling pots from the world number one left his opponent needing snookers, which the man from Leicester could not produce.
That left Robertson just one frame behind and the scores were level at 10-10 after another compelling 45-minute tussle, which again left Selby needing snookers but unable to oblige.
The comeback sparked memories of the UK Championship final last December, when the Australian overturned a 5-1 deficit to beat his English opponent, but Selby seemed to have learned from that and returned after the mid-session interval in a composed state to take the next two frames, including a break of 73, and regain the advantage.
Yet Robertson once more halted the momentum of the 2007 Crucible runner-up, claiming the next frame thanks to a break of 64 before capitalising on some poor shots from Selby to ensure a level playing field ahead of Saturday night's conclusion.
As Selby and Robertson slugged it out, with a late-night finish looking inevitable, it was left to O'Sullivan to enjoy a leisurely day.
He planned to go running, have a practice and enjoy some fine dining locally, initially winding down before building himself up for his sixth final, aiming to preserve his 100 per cent record in Crucible showpieces and complete a back-to-back hat-trick.
"It's a dream to be here three times on the spin," said O'Sullivan.
"I feel fresh as a daisy. I'm not sure if it's that I haven't had a lot taken out of me in the last two matches. I only feel like I get stronger as the tournament goes on.
"It can be tiring mentally but I feel fresh."