Mark Selby won 17-15 against Stuart Bingham to book his place in the World Snooker Championship final.
Selby returned to claim the one frame he required to book his place in the final.
But it proved far from straight-forward, with both players spurning fine chances before it boiled down to an extended safety battle on the colours.
There was time for one final twist as Bingham failed five times to get out of a tough snooker on the green, before eventually leaving Selby the chance to clear the required colours and seal a 17-15 victory.
With the start-time of the concluding session of the second semi-final fast approaching, officials hauled the pair off with Selby leading 16-15 and requiring one more frame to reach the sport’s showpiece for the fifth time.
It is the first time in history that the final session of a world semi-final has been interrupted, and with rivals Kyren Wilson and Shaun Murphy preparing to resume at 12-12, it promised to be a late night at the Crucible.
Selby will be kicking himself for causing the delay after compiling what looked set to be a match-winning break of 44 in the 31st frame, only to run out of position and let in Bingham for a nerveless 85 clearance which forced overtime.
Selby had resumed trailing 13-11 but dominated the session, a break of 125 hauling him level at 13-13 then, after Bingham responded with a century of his own, three frames in a row put the Leicester man firmly in control.
But although there was no repeat of the warning Selby received from referee Ben Williams on Friday for slow play, the gruelling nature of many of the frames ensured extra time would be required to determine a winner.
Referee Ben Williams intervened to tell Selby to “think about taking a stroke” after the three-time champion took over three minutes deliberating during a 19th frame that ticked over the one-hour mark.
Bingham started the evening with a 131 clearance then made a valiant attempt at a maximum break, before ultimately fashioning a 13-11 advantage heading into their final session on Saturday afternoon.
Resuming 9-7 behind, Bingham made the strong start to the session he required, following his opening century with a promising maximum bid which faltered on 96 when he missed a red to the middle pocket.
Selby’s mood hardly improved when Williams interrupted his deliberations in the next frame to tell him: “This has been going on for over three minutes now, you do need to think about taking a stroke.”
Although Selby fluffed his subsequent safety shot, Bingham could not take advantage and the frame drifted over the hour-mark before a fluked pink and another loose safety on the black by Selby enabled Bingham to make it three in a row.
Bingham, who appeared to be relishing the raucous Crucible atmosphere in sharp contrast to his stony-faced opponent, proceeded to fire breaks of 78 and 69 to extend his lead to three frames.
Selby dug deep to claw back the next two frames – the first of which involved a double re-rack – before a break of 63 ultimately saw Bingham home in the final frame of the night which required a mid-frame toilet break.
Three-time champion Mark Selby finally found his scoring touch in the second session to open up a 9-7 lead over Stuart Bingham in their World Snooker Championship semi-final.
Selby had recorded a highest break of just 52 in the first 12 frames of the match before producing brilliant back-to-back centuries to move 8-6 in front.
Bingham responded superbly with his first century, a break of 127, to halve his deficit and looked like snatching the final frame of the second session, only to miss the final red after moving it off the side cushion.
Selby cleared to the pink to restore his two-frame cushion heading into this evening’s third session.
When play resumed at 4-4 on Friday morning, Bingham had twice moved a frame in front with the aid of a 62 clearance in the opening frame and a break of 83 in the 11th.
Selby needed several chances before levelling the scores at 6-6 heading into the mid-session interval but was in inspired form on his return, making consecutive total clearances of 134.
Bingham hit back in style with his own century and, after Selby had missed a tricky red to the middle on 44, the 2015 champion had the chance to get back on level terms.
However, in developing the last red Bingham pushed it a long way down the table and was unable to make the difficult pot, allowing Selby in to take what could prove a decisive advantage.
The table rather than the players took centre stage in the first semi-final of the World Snooker Championship with ‘soft cushions’ blamed for some scrappy early play at the Crucible.
The table rather than the players took centre stage in the first semi-final of the World Snooker Championship with ‘soft cushions’ and a possibly defective cue ball blamed for some scrappy early play at the Crucible.
From the off three-time former champion Mark Selby and Stuart Bingham, the 2015 winner, noticed the ball was not behaving as they expected as they found themselves out of position on a number of shots with the white regularly coming up short.
Tables were re-clothed prior to the semi-finals but Bingham could be seen mouthing “This is weird” during the first session, which ended 4-4.
At the interval the match referee spoke to both players and the table was brushed heavily and the cue ball was changed as Bingham felt that was the issue, although when asked Selby reportedly did not think that was the problem.
Selby had coped better with the strange conditions as, having lost the first frame to a 60-break by his opponent, he took a 3-1 lead into the first interval.
Bingham was on a break of 46 before missing a blue but then Selby, with a chance to clean up failed on a yellow at 56-31, although it was not to prove detrimental as he later cut in a brilliant long yellow and cleared the table.
Selby took the next two frames but high breaks of 33 and 46 gave an indication of the troublesome table conditions.
Whether the change of cue ball made a difference or whether it was psychological, Bingham looked a different player when they returned.
A 92-break – the highest of the afternoon – immediately made it 3-2 before in the next frame Selby’s foul potting a red as he sank the blue offered Bingham, who had opened up with 36, the chance to return to the table and a break of 38 levelled things up.
Bingham breezed through the seventh with a run of 82 but after missing a brown on a break of 42, Selby responded to take the final frame 73-42 to maintain his record of not being behind at the end of a session in the current championship.