Snooker centurion Mark Selby outshone three great gladiators of the Crucible and left a tortured Stephen Hendry facing near-certain defeat in their World Championship clash.

Selby was installed as the tournament's new favourite after setting an all-time record by reaching six centuries in his clash with seven-time champion Hendry.

The 27-year-old was majestic as he secured a 12-4 lead to carry into tomorrow's concluding afternoon session, when he will require just one more frame to reach the quarter-finals.

After breaks of 125, 108 and 129 yesterday, the 27-year-old rifled in 100, 127 and 117 today and then rubbed Hendry's nose in the dirt when snookers were required in the final frame by drawing five fouls from the Scot and coming from 48 points behind to take it 77-76.

The only consolation for Hendry was that he avoided defeat with a session to spare in what could be his last Crucible match, 25 years after losing in his first against Willie Thorne.

Hendry, now 42, will consider retirement this summer and a two-session exit would have been no way for arguably the sport's greatest ever player to sign off.

Hendry managed to take three of the middle session's eight frames, but neither he nor Ronnie O'Sullivan and Shaun Murphy, former world champions embroiled in a tense battle on the other table, went near to matching Selby's remarkable performance.

Selby led 7-1 from the opening session as he set off on his mission to finish off Hendry.

And although he came into the match admitting that he would feel guilty if defeat ended his opponent's career, Selby was merciless.

His fourth century came in today's opening frame and, although Hendry hit back with 62 to take the next, Selby returned with 127 and followed up with 87 to lead 10-2 at the mid-session interval.

That left the Leicester man in sight of victory, but 75 and 74 from Hendry spared some blushes before he took his seat for the next Selby potting masterclass.

The sixth hundred from Selby was followed by embarrassment for Hendry in the final frame of the day. Selby needed snookers at 70-22 behind and drew the flurry of fouls from Hendry, the last of which saw him pot the white to leave his opponent a short-range red. Selby inevitably cleared up.

While Selby was carving up Hendry, Murphy cut into O'Sullivan's lead to set up what should be a thrilling finale tomorrow evening.

O'Sullivan was 6-2 ahead at the start of play, but Murphy trimmed that advantage to 9-7. Neither man went close to matching Selby's stunning form though, with no century in the match yet.

Runs of 95 and 59 saw O'Sullivan go from 7-5 to 9-5 in front, but Murphy finished strongly with 83 to take frame 15 and then kept O'Sullivan pointless in the last of the session.