David Gilbert is just five frames away from his first ranking title having taken a 5-4 lead over Mark Williams in the final of the Hong Rui Ma Yushan World Open.
First to ten frames in the concluding session in China this evening will take the trophy and £150,000 top prize, while the runner-up will earn £75,000.
Tamworth’s 37-year-old Gilbert made his only previous appearance in the final of a ranking event at the 2015 International Championship, losing to John Higgins. The world number 29 will jump to 13th in the rankings if he wins the title, and earn a place in the Shanghai Masters and Champion of Champions invitation events.
Williams has vastly more experience at the business end of ranking events. He is playing in his 34th final and aiming for his 22nd title. Three of those victories have come within the past nine months as the 43-year-old Welshman won the Northern Ireland Open, German Masters and World Championship during a superb 2017/18 season. Whatever the result today he will move above Ronnie O’Sullivan to second place in the world rankings, narrowing the gap to leader Mark Selby.
Gilbert settled quickly into the final by taking the opening frame. In the second he compiled a break of 56, then Williams had a chance to clear but missed the penultimate red along the top cushion, allowing his opponent to go 2-0 up. A run of 91 from Williams saw him halve the deficit, then Gilbert took frame four in three scoring visits to lead 3-1.
The standard jumped a notch after the interval as Williams made a break of 121 in frame five, then Gilbert replied with a tremendous 142 total clearance – equalling the highest break of the tournament – to go 4-2 ahead.
Three-time World Champion Williams got the better of two fragmented frames to level at 4-4. In the last of the session he missed a tough long red to a baulk corner, and Gilbert punished him with a run of 52 to secure a narrow advantage. They resume at 7.30pm local time (12.30pm BST).