Shaun Murphy edged the opening session of the World Championship final with Mark Selby to take a 5-3 lead into Sunday evening.
Both were a step short of their best, with errors cropping up too often for a free-flowing affair, but it still made for compelling viewing for a capacity crowd at the Crucible.
After taking the opening two frames, Murphy fended off a fightback from Selby to keep his nose in front after the opening eight frames.
As expected, there were nerves early on – with both missing makeable pots. Selby was the first to get in, but broke down on 49 and lost a safety battle on the blue which enabled Murphy to edge ahead.
The second followed a similar path to the first, with Selby getting in only to inexplicably miss a blue into the left middle when attempting to cheat the pocket to create an angle. Murphy got back into the frame and then won a safety battle on the colours to take it.
Murphy looked well set to bag the third, but broke down on 65 and Selby cleared to the brown and won a safety battle to get on the board. Taking the third appeared to settle Selby, as he took the fourth with a fluent break of 89.
As well as silky cueing, Murphy has demonstrated a rock-solid temperament over the course of the Crucible fortnight and he produced a one-visit kill of 75 to edge back in front upon the resumption.
Despite both making fluent breaks in the fourth and fifth frames to free up their cueing arms, nerves crept back in with both making glaring misses in the sixth frame. Leaving a black in the jaws of the bottom-right pocket proved costly for Murphy, as Selby stepped in to level the match once again.
Murphy ensured he would not be behind heading into the second session as a break of 64 proved enough to edge him back in front at 4-3.
Selby had a chance to make a bit of Crucible history, as a free ball offered him the opportunity to become only the second player to make a 16-red clearance at the World Championship.
However, he broke down on 46 to hand Murphy a chance. The Magician benefited from an outrageous fluked pink, which went into the yellow pocket after it missed its intended target of the left middle only to roll down the rail and drop.