Barry Hawkins just about managed to squeeze his way into the semi-finals of the World Championship for a second successive season after emerging from a thrilling contest with Dominic Dale 13-12.
The pair resumed for their third and final session this afternoon with the 2013 runner-up seemingly on his way to a comfortable victory, boasting an 11-5 lead.
Only two players have been able to make a successful comeback from that position before with Shaun Murphy derailing Matthew Stevens at the same stage in 2007 and Neil Robertson overturning a similar deficit to Martin Gould en route to capturing his one and only Crucible crown four years ago.
Nobody gave Welshman Dale much of a chance despite the qualifier’s strong run to the last eight that included earlier triumphs over Mark Davis and Michael Wasley.
However, the 42 year-old attacked from the off and a mixture of his improved scoring and visible tension creeping into his opponent’s game suddenly ensured that eventual parity was becoming increasingly more likely.
Breaks of 75, 65, 64, 47 and 61 saw Dale reel off six frames on the trot to tie the game at 11-11 as the levels of tension inside the arena mounted.
The two-time ranking event winner held himself together with another good break of 52 to unbelievably take the lead and go favourite at one up with only two frames to play.
Yet, Hawkins hadn’t reached last year’s final and become the world no.4 for nothing and the Kent cueist steeled himself for the final two frames.
A gutsy 66 break stopped the rot and ensured that he would at least force a decider with his eccentric challenger known as the ‘Spaceman’.
There, the old adage states that all any player wishes for in a decider is a chance.
Dale, despite doing little wrong, failed to get his and another brave 65 from Hawkins finally granted his less than safe passage into the last four.
Dale was magnanimous in defeat, graciously offering his hand with a smile as I’m sure a mixture of disappointment but pride in his overall performance overwhelmed the end to his experience this year.
Hawkins, meanwhile, will be mightily relieved not to have been on the wrong end of a fight back that would have been spoken about for quite some time had the reverse been completed.
The 35 year-old must compose himself now in the knowledge that the intensity of his task to become world champion for the first time multiplies tenfold tomorrow with the prospect of facing the man who beat him for the trophy 12 months ago – Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Fans who would prefer to see a close encounter would probably be glad that Hawkins managed to escape with victory in this quarter-final tie rather than the spirited Dale.
But it is fair to say that if Hawkins concedes a run of seven frames on the trot against O’Sullivan, like he did during today’s bout, there’ll be no such opportunity for recovery.
Nevertheless, a conclusion that encapsulates all the drama that is possible at the World Championship and again highlights the necessity for longer framed formats.
This evening, the last semi-finalist will be unearthed with Judd Trump leading Neil Robertson 9-6.