China’s Zhao Xintong opened up a 5-3 lead over Belgium’s Luca Brecel in the final of the UK Championship in York.
Zhao showed no sign of nerves when compiling breaks of 79 and 61, in between Brecel’s superb 133, as the first four frames were shared for 2-2.
After losing the next two, Brecel took frame seven by clearing up the colours, but Zhao’s 78 break put him back clear.
The best-of-19 final concludes at 19:00 GMT, with the trophy and £200,000 prize money on offer for the victor.
As an added incentive, the champion will also climb into the elite top 16 and earn a place at next month’s invitational Masters in London, facing John Higgins in the first round.
Both players are competing in their first Triple Crown event final, guaranteeing a new name will be etched on the trophy, and after a rapid start, it soon turned into a tense battle.
The seventh frame could have been crucial after Zhao missed a routine black off the spot allowing Brecel to capitalise, but he hit back by taking the following frame to lead heading into the evening session.
Six-time UK champion Steve Davis said on BBC Two: “Zhao steadied the ship with an excellent last frame.
“He was lucky with a couple of flukes in the session, which may have been the difference in the mentality of the two players. Luca got a bit flat after that but has to regroup for tonight.”
Shaun Murphy, the 2008 UK champion, added: “It is often very hard to play as well as he did in the semi-final and carry it on to today. Zhao was definitely the better player in that session. All to play for tonight.”