Ding Junhui is four frames away from winning the UK Championship title after dismantling an off-colour Mark Allen in the opening session of the final.
The world No. 38 will return to the York Barbican at 19:00 GMT with a 6-2 lead, and chasing a first trophy in three years.
Ding has faded as a force since winning the UK title in 2019, reaching just one semi-final in the following three years as his game deserted him.
But he is on the cusp of a famous comeback to the big time after another scintillating display that left his opponent with many more questions than answers.
A catastrophic missed red – branded the “worst shot he’s hit all week” by Neal Foulds on Eurosport commentary – set the tone for a miserable session for Allen as Ding showed some nice touches to take the opening two frames.
Allen finally got going with a brilliant red along the cushion, eventually taking the third frame, but Ding restored his two-frame advantage with his seventh century of the tournament, a fine 126 contribution.
Eurosport pundit Ronnie O’Sullivan, who was whitewashed 6-0 by Ding earlier in the tournament, said the Chinese star had “10 one visits” in him and urged him to continue attacking – advice that was immediately heeded as a 135 total clearance made it 4-1 after the interval.
There were groans as Allen missed a blue in the sixth frame before it eventually came down to the final four colours. And the longest frame of the match was pinched on the black by Ding, somewhat fortuitously, before a knock of 102 moved him six clear with one frame to play in the afternoon.
At that point, O’Sullivan confessed Allen’s display was “the worst I think I’ve seen from anybody in a long, long time”.
But Allen dug in, making a much-needed 79 break to move within four frames of Ding before the final session. Allen was 5-3 behind in his best-of-11 semi-final against Jack Lisowski and will need to summon an even bigger comeback to quell Ding on Sunday night.
‘Worst I’ve seen from anybody in a long time’ – O’Sullivan on Allen’s start in UK Championship final
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