John Higgins seized control of the Masters final with Yan Bingtao by taking a 5-3 lead into the evening session.
The Scot’s form was a level below what he produced earlier in the tournament, but his game craft was as good as ever in securing a lead.
Yan had a chance to finish level at 4-4 but he broke down when in the balls in the eighth frame and Higgins stepped in to secure an advantage at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
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If there were any nerves on his Masters final debut, Yan did not show them as he took the opening frame in excellent fashion. A superb long red set up a break of 66 and a solid safety crafted another chance to take the opening frame and keep his opponent cold.
Higgins drew level in the second frame after Yan missed a couple of difficult reds and left the table open for the Scot.
The third frame had the feeling of a decider, as both players were handed and passed up a series of chances. Yan was able to fall over the line after Higgins missed a blue into the middle that he would make 99 times out of 100.
Higgins was able to erase the error of the previous frame from the memory banks by knocking in a 63 to draw level at the mid-session interval.
The two-time champion’s form was not as good as in his quarter-final win over Ronnie O'Sullivan, a match he said he could not have played better in, but he stepped things up a notch in the first frame after the interval with a break of 98.
Higgins took the sixth to ensure he could not be behind going into the final session.
Yan capitalised on a Higgins error to knock in a 97 to take the seventh frame and he had a chance to draw level but ran out of position and missed a fiendishly difficult green as Higgins countered to secure a 5-3 advantage heading into this evening's final session.
Higgins makes 127 break to seize control of first-round match
Higgins trails Tian after dour opening session