Barry Hawkins was rising to the challenge of his first Betfair World Championship final last night, but Ronnie O'Sullivan leads 10-7 going into today’s concluding two sessions.
From 5-3 behind going into the evening, Hawkins drew level at 7-7 and the underdog was looking to have shed the early nerves that affected him.
The 34-year-old world number 14 from Kent fired in back-to-back breaks of 83 and 133 to give O'Sullivan plenty to think about in the closing three frames of the session.
The reaction from O'Sullivan to the encroaching danger was instantaneous and dazzling as he fired in 103 and 106 to surge ahead again at 9-7.
After runs of 113 and 100 in the afternoon, O'Sullivan claimed a place in snooker's record books as the player with the most World Championship centuries, edging two ahead of Stephen Hendry's total of 127.
He is also bidding to become the first player since Hendry in 1996 to successfully defend the title in Sheffield.
Were Hawkins to lift the trophy tonight, it would rank as surely the greatest upset in a World Championship final since Joe Johnson beat Steve Davis in 1986.
There was a long way to go in the final though before 80-1 pre-tournament outsider Hawkins could start to think of lifting the trophy, but the level of his performance was defying widespread expectations that O'Sullivan would cruise to a fifth world title.
Coached by the 1979 world champion Terry Griffiths, Hawkins was able to call on the Welshman's expertise and experience in the intervals.
And it proved to work for Hawkins as he drew level at 7-7, but after his burst of centuries O'Sullivan was guaranteed to lead overnight.