Mark Selby fought back from 3-1 down to beat David Gilbert 4-3 in a first round thriller at the Champion of Champions in Bolton.
The world number two was way short of his best until he was almost dead and buried, only to then turn it on and reel off three frames in a row to steal the match.
Gilbert failed to take advantage of an off-colour Selby but once his opponent got going there was little to stop the genius at work.
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Selby fights on to face either Shaun Murphy or Yan Bingtao in the group final later on Wednesday.
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BRILLIANT SELBY BATTLES BACK
Gilbert missed two easy reds in the first frame that could have cost him dearly were Selby at his best. But the world number two looked out of sorts as he cannoned a blue, leaving Gilbert to tidy up and take a 1-0 lead.
And the underdog was cueing beautifully in the second frame, coming out on top after a safety battle before doubling his lead with Selby limited to just one pot.
But when gifted a glorious opportunity to take a 3-0 lead, Gilbert missed a routine red at 41-0, letting Selby to the table to hit 67 of his own.
The frame then looked finished before Selby missed a yellow off the spot and Gilbert needed just the black to steal it. But, incredibly, he missed the pot and left the black over the pocket for Selby to halve the deficit.
Gilbert dusted himself down and raced into an almost unassailable lead in the fourth frame, with Selby unable to claw his way back and going two frames behind once more.
One frame from victory, Gilbert missed a routine red in the early stages of the sixth frame, and Selby - showing glimpses of his best - rattled off a break of 79 to keep himself in the match.
Gilbert could only watch as Selby hit a majestic long red on his way to completing the comeback and forcing a decider with an incredible clearance of 131, becoming only the sixth player to hit 700 centuries in snooker history.
Gilbert kicked off the final frame with a run of 32 before a colossal safety battle ensued with neither player giving any ground with the stakes so high.
But Gilbert was the first to falter, and Selby - who once again displayed the most outrageous mental strength around the table - took the match 4-3 with a 72 clearance.
Yan Bingtao is through to the group final where he will face Selby after a convincing 4-1 win over 2017 champion Shaun Murphy.
Bingtao raced into a 2-0 lead with emphatic breaks of 88 and 78. Murphy responded with a half century in the third after The Tiger missed a simple black, but Bingtao would not be stopped as he emptied the table for a 96 to extend his lead.
Into the fifth frame and an out-of-sorts Murphy needing a snooker might have been enough to give any player the wobbles, but Yan composed himself superbly to snick in the black and secured a fine victory.
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