Ding Junhui clawed his way back into contention for a fourth UK Snooker Championship title after an absorbing opening session of his final against Ronnie O’Sullivan in York ended all square.

The Chinese 36-year-old looked down and out after a string of costly errors handed the seven-time winner the simplest of opportunities to ease into a 4-1 lead in their best of 19-frame encounter.

But Ding, who first won the title at the age of 18 in 2005, dug in to reel off the final three frames of the session, including breaks of 114 and 70, to leave the tie poised at 4-4 ahead of Sunday evening’s conclusion.

MrQ UK Championship 2023 – Day Nine – York Barbican
Ronnie O’Sullivan was pegged back by Ding Junhui in York (Mike Egerton/PA)

It had all looked like it was going to be too easy for O’Sullivan, who has seldom been required to find his best form in the tournament as opponents, including Zhou Yuelong and Hossein Vafaei, appeared to capitulate in his presence.

Despite his vast experience at the top of the game, including a run to last year’s final, Ding looked set to go the same way after missing a routine pink on a break of 63 in the opener, allowing O’Sullivan to sweep up.

O’Sullivan swiftly extended his lead and needed no second invitation to move 3-0 ahead with a break of 91 after Ding, once again presented with the first chance, missed a black off its spot.

MrQ UK Championship 2023 – Day Nine – York Barbican
Ding Junhui hit back from 4-1 down to level at 4-4 heading into Sunday’s final session (Mike Egerton/PA)

It was the world number one’s turn to run aground in the fourth frame with Ding’s nervous 89 allowing him to get a frame on the board before the mid-session interval, but O’Sullivan duly restored his three-frame lead upon the resumption.

Facing the prospect of a one-sided final session, Ding dug in, pouncing on an uncharacteristic foul with the rest by O’Sullivan to close to 4-2, then summoning a 114 clearance to pink to haul back within one frame.

A break of 70 ensured Ding did enough in the next – despite unnecessarily extending the session after running out of position on frame ball – to leave it all to play for later on Sunday evening.