Kyren Wilson produced a ferocious fightback to only trail a stuttering Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-7 after a pulsating opening day of the 2020 World Snooker Championship final in Sheffield.
Appearing in the final of snooker’s blue-riband event for the first time, Wilson looked nervy as he fell 8-2 behind against five-time champion O’Sullivan at the Crucible on Saturday.
Having prevailed a 17-16 winner in his mammoth semi-final with Anthony McGill, the world number eight appeared fatigued as he struggled to produce his optimum performance levels and was in danger of being cut adrift.
But with the Rocket also struggling to fire and cutting a frustrated demeanour as a consequence, the Warrior rallied by winning five of the next six frames to only trail 9-7.
Although, he missed a glorious opportunity to cut the deficit to a single frame overnight by rattling a tricky final red in the jaws of the corner pocket, allowing a relieved O’Sullivan to steal a 10-7 lead on the pink.
Targeting a sixth Crucible title that will bring him level with Steve Davis and Ray Reardon, the Rocket controlled the opening session with breaks of 80 and 75 opening up a 3-1 advantage.
Having recovered from 16-14 down to stun Mark Selby in a deciding frame during their epic semi-final showdown, he then responded well to Wilson halving the deficit with runs of 48 and 106, before taking the final frame of the afternoon on the pink and black for a 6-2 lead.
Although O’Sullivan, who was publicly critical of his cue action following that win over Selby, was looking far from his brilliant best, with his trademark fluency and long-potting deserting him.
Nevertheless, he stole the evening’s opener on the black after Wilson had been in first with 52, while a run of 51 made it 8-2.
But with the Rocket not firing on all cylinders, his opponent finally settled into his rhythm and grasped his opportunity to cut the deficit with runs of 92 and 50 reducing the arrears to 8-4.
Wilson, who also dethroned reigning champion Judd Trump in the quarter-finals, continued his fightback with a contribution of 58 helping him claw back to 8-6 behind.
He was in a great position to claim his fifth consecutive frame but was desperately unfortunate to knock in a red when cannoning into the cluster from the blue, allowing O’Sullivan to stop the rot and guarantee an overnight lead.
Three-time ranking event winner Wilson responded in trademark fashion, however, with his first century of the match courtesy of a magnificent break of 100.
Both players had chances during the final frame of the session with O’Sullivan suffering a horrendous kick after fluking the opening red.
But Wilson was unable to capitalise as he missed a tricky final red near the bottom rail, letting his opponent off the hook to establish a three-frame cushion heading into Sunday’s conclusion.