Mark Selby moved four frames away from winning his fourth world snooker title after preserving his three-frame lead over Shaun Murphy at the end of the penultimate session of their Crucible final.
Selby repelled a flashy Murphy fightback to clinch the crucial final frame of the session and go 14-11 in front ahead of the conclusion of their best-of-35 battle on Monday evening.
Each player summoned a century but neither displayed their best form in a session in which Selby’s fighting spirit cancelled out Murphy’s flamboyant if somewhat erratic break-building bids.
Ultimately it was Murphy who will have headed back to his dressing room more disappointed, having blown his chance of narrowing the deficit to a single frame following a sloppy break-off shot in the final frame of the afternoon.
Resuming 10-7 behind, Murphy had drawn first blood with a promising break of 77 and looked odds-on to make it 10-9 when he got the snooker he required, only to leave the black dangling over the middle pocket.
Selby duly potted it to re-establish his three-frame lead, but failed to punish Murphy for a poor safety in the next, a missed black of his own giving the 2005 champion the chance to clear the colours and pull back the deficit again.
But just as in his semi-final, where he recovered from a 10-4 deficit to beat Kyren Wilson, Murphy raised his game with his back against the wall, a superb 100 bringing him back to 13-10 and a brilliant long red helping him over the line in the next.
But the fist-pump with which Murphy greeted his reduction in arrears proved premature, as Selby gleefully swept up a long red from Murphy’s poor break-off, and his subsequent 62 ultimately proved enough to leave the Leicester man in full control.