Ding Junhui drew within three frames of becoming the first Asian player to reach the final at the Crucible as he moved 14-10 ahead of Alan McManus in their Betfred World Championship clash.
It has been a tremendous match so far with nine century breaks between the two players in 24 frames, setting a new record for any match at the Crucible. Ding alone has had six tons, matching the record held by Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
China’s Ding lost his only previous Sheffield semi-final 17-15 against Judd Trump in 2011 and hopes to go one step further this time. McManus is playing in his third world semi, the previous two coming in 1992 and 1993, and is hoping to reach the final for the first time. But the 45-year-old Scot will need to win seven of the last nine frames in the concluding session on Saturday afternoon.
Ding led 9-7 going into tonight’s session and had a chance to clear from 36-3 down in the opening frame but snookered himself on the final brown after potting the green. He escaped but McManus was able to clear from brown to black to halve his deficit.
World number 17 Ding bounced back from that set-back with breaks of 80 and 47 to extend his lead to 11-8. In frame 20, he potted 14 reds with blacks and looked on course to become the seventh player ever to make a maximum break at the Crucible. But in potting the 15th red he left the cue ball high on the black, and narrowly missed a thin cut to a top corner on 113.
World number 29 McManus hit back after the interval with breaks of 59 and 81 to close to 12-10. And the Glaswegian had a clear scoring chance in frame 23 but missed the black off its spot on 16, and Ding punished him with a run of 60.
Both players had opportunities in the last frame of the night and it came down to the last red. McManus led 53-30 but an uncharacteristic safety error left Ding a pot to a baulk corner, and he kept his nerve to clear with 31 to secure a four-frame overnight lead.
They return to the arena at 2.30pm on Saturday.