Belgium’s Luca Brecel moved within three frames of becoming the first player from continental Europe to win snooker’s World Championship after establishing a 15-10 lead in the final over four-time champion Mark Selby on Monday.
The 28-year-old had seen his early 6-2 advantage on Sunday reduced to a slender overnight lead of 9-8, with Selby making the first maximum 147 break in a World Championship final.
But Brecel appeared unfazed Monday, making four centuries in the session.
It will likely need a spectacular collapse to deny him the title when the best of 35 frames match at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre resumes later Monday.
Brecel struck three hundreds in four frames during a blistering start to the second day’s play to go 13-8 ahead.
He capitalised on a missed red from Selby to make a break of 106 in Monday’s opening frame.
Producing some fine safety play as well as aggressive potting, Brecel won the next frame in two visits after another jawed red by Selby.
The Englishman then went 35 points ahead in the following frame only for Brecel to respond with a break of 101 that included a spectacular doubled red.
Brecel, who before this year’s edition had never won a match at the Crucible, then completed the mini session with a superb break of 141.
Selby, however, is no stranger to coming from behind to win world finals and he took his first frame of the day immediately after the mid-session interval.
He then won the 23rd frame after coming from 41 points behind and then prevailing in a prolonged safety battle on the last red to reduce Brecel’s lead to 13-10.
But thoughts Brecel was about to lose his nerve in the most important match of his career were answered resoundingly in the next two frames.
He made the most of a brilliant opening red to record his fourth century of the day and then, in the final frame of the session, he produced several superb positional shots during a stunning clearance that overturned Selby’s 40-point lead as he went five clear.
Brecel had already proved himself a comeback king on his way to the final.
He won seven straight frames to beat seven-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last eight, with Brecel then reeling off 11 in a row from 14-5 down to beat China’s Si Jiahui 17-15 in the semi-finals.
Selby’s 147 came on the 40th anniversary of Cliff Thorburn’s landmark first maximum in any Crucible encounter.
His break was the 14th maximum in Crucible history and the second of this year’s Championship after Kyren Wilson’s first-round 147 against Ryan Day.
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