John Higgins fought back from a five-frame deficit to only trail 13-11 overnight against David Gilbert in their World Championship semi-final, while Judd Trump established a narrow 9-7 lead over Gary Wilson on Friday.
Despite looking nowhere near his best, the four-time World champion dug deep in trademark fashion from 12-7 down – winning five of the last six frames to only trail by two ahead of Saturday’s concluding session.
Meanwhile, world number seven Trump won four consecutive frames on the way to edging his nose in front against Wilson.
Appearing in his maiden Crucible semi-final, Gilbert continued to look comfortable in the one-table set-up as, leading 5-3 from Thursday’s first session, he opened this morning with a magnificent break of 125.
He then made it 7-3 on the pink after Higgins missed a black off its spot, before moving five frames clear on the black following a neat clearance of 35.
The world number 16 could have gone further ahead had he not missed a pink at 56-17 up in frame 12 – allowing Higgins to clear and snatch it on the black.
The four-time World champion, who is appearing in his 10th Crucible semi-final, built on that momentum with runs of 67, 52 and 58 seeing him reduce the deficit to 8-6.
However, Gilbert responded with 72 before he pounced on a missed blue by Higgins to move 10-6 ahead.
He then drew first blood this evening following a contribution of 56, but was pegged back after his opponent doubled the black the length of the table to snatch frame 18.
Nevertheless, the Tamworth cueist bounced back with a break of 75 after an uncharacteristic missed blue by Higgins who, despite struggling to find any rhythm, managed to take the next on the pink.
The 43-year-old appeared rejuvenated after the interval as he crashed in a stunning 143 total clearance – giving him the highest break of this year’s World Championship and the record-equalling 86th in the tournament overall.
Gilbert responded well with a break of 91 and had a chance to clear in the next, but a missed green allowed a relived Higgins to make it 13-10.
The Wizard then capitalised on more errors from his opponent to reduce the deficit to just two frames overnight and leave things finely poised ahead of tomorrow’s conclusion.
Elsewhere, Trump also holds a two-frame cushion over Wilson.
Locked at 4-4 following an enthralling opening session, world number 32 Wilson struck first this afternoon with a neat 65 clearance.
Trump responded with 56 in the next, but the Tyneside Terror took a 35-minute-long 11th frame to edge his nose back in front.
However, the Ace, who is seeking only his second appearance in a Crucible final, went into overdrive with breaks of 73, 123 and 75 as he won four consecutive frames to go 9-6 ahead.
But Wilson – the lowest-ranked player left in the tournament – rallied with 77 to stay within touching distance.