Ronnie O'Sullivan and Judd Trump set a pace their Betfair World Championship semi-final rivals could not match at the Crucible today.
The game's two box-office stars produced another spellbinding session this morning, with four-time defending champion O'Sullivan clicking into gear to move 9-7 ahead prior to tonight's play.
The quality could not be replicated by last-four debutants Barry Hawkins and Ricky Walden, though, with the pair limping through to their mid-session interval with four frames knocked off in over two hours.
Starting out 6-2 down, Hawkins slugged his way back to 7-5 without making a break higher than the 36 he made last night. His nuggety style got him back in the mix, however, as Walden - fluid yesterday - lost his way.
Their display was very much a case of after the Lord Mayor's show following the second installment of the O'Sullivan-Trump clash.
O'Sullivan, who again courted controversy on Wednesday when he said he was only in Sheffield for the money, reeled off three frames in a row to move clear of Trump, who may end up regretting his claim that he was not scared of the 37-year-old.
Winning the last frame of the morning did at least give the world number three something to cling to, though, as a two-frame buffer is a lot more manageable than a four-frame one against someone as potent as O'Sullivan.
There had been doubts as to whether or not O'Sullivan would retain the support of the crowd after his comments about cash, but there was no suggestion of that as he took the opening frame.
One vocal fan told the Essex potter to "show him" after Trump undercut a pink to the middle, and his clearing 90 appeased those of the opinion that O'Sullivan was not someone to be disrespected.
Trump was not looking particularly nimble amongst the balls and let out an audible groan when he fluffed a red on 35, but an identical contribution got him over the line and level again.
A fascinating 11th frame fell on the side of O'Sullivan thanks to a brilliant behind-the-yellow safety. He clipped a top-cushion red to get Trump in all sorts of trouble and knocked in a timely 34 to the pink.
Trump was as good as his word in not being intimidated, though, and responded by taking the final frame before the interval to give O'Sullivan plenty to think about.
That would be the last time the Bristolian was level, however, as O'Sullivan rattled off three frames in a row after the resumption.
The first of them should have gone Trump's way but he never looked comfortable with the pink on the black spot and stalled on 30. O'Sullivan cracked in 43 and then produced a brilliant snooker on the green from which his opponent could not escape.
Seven became eight as O'Sullivan made a punishing 93 to the yellow after Trump missed a routine red to the corner, and a run of 60 secured him the next after the world number three blinked first in a safety exchange.
Trump managed to claw one back, though, with O'Sullivan missing the green after a messy run of failed pots, setting up an intriguing penultimate session.