Ronnie O'Sullivan found himself in a battle and came up with the response of a sporting gladiator to pull clear of Barry Hawkins after a superb opening day of the Betfair World Championship final.
First-time Crucible finalist Hawkins stormed back from two frames adrift to level at 7-7, but O'Sullivan's reaction to the encroaching danger was instantaneous and punishing as he fired in breaks of 103 and 106 before winning a dramatic last of the evening on the black to lead 10-7 overnight.
Hawkins had 9-8 in his sights when he clipped in blue and pink, but he left O'Sullivan a long black and, to the defending champion's relief, it found the heart of the pocket.
O'Sullivan claimed a place in the snooker history books as his four centuries - he made runs of 113 and 100 this afternoon - saw him edge two ahead of Stephen Hendry's World Championship record, which had stood at 127.
The highest number of centuries in a match at the Crucible stands at the six that Mark Selby made against Hendry two years ago, and that could come under threat tomorrow as the best-of-35-frames tussle moves to its conclusion.
Although O'Sullivan finished the day in front, much of the credit for making the start to the final so richly entertaining had to go to Hawkins.
The 34-year-old world number 14 from Kent fired in back-to-back breaks of 83 and 133 this evening in going level, but not for the first time in this tournament O'Sullivan managed to pull rank.
There was a long way to go in the best-of-35-frames final before 80-1 pre-tournament outsider Hawkins could start to think of lifting the trophy tomorrow night, particularly after the final frame went against him.
However, the level of his performance was defying widespread expectations that O'Sullivan would cruise to a fifth world title.