For a while there it looked like it was going to be a death match.
Playing on adjacent sheets last night, Randy Ferbey and Kevin Martin were in trouble early.
If they'd both lost, today would be a different kind of day -- one that wouldn't end with happiness for one and hope for the other.
But both turned testy situations into triumphs, setting up the most anticipated match of the Roar of the Rings this afternoon at 1.
It's a celebration of two curling legends, with the winner putting himself in a terrific position to proceed to Sunday and the game that could get him to the Vancouver Olympics.
Both Martin and Ferbey and Edmonton's other team in the eight team event are 3-1.
But Kevin Koe, no matter what he does today, will be a sidebar. And when he can sneak a peek, he'll be a very interested spectator.
This is Martin vs. Ferbey. In the big building. In Edmonton. For the only time in their careers.
"Hopefully it's a very special game," said Ferbey.
SPAT AND SPIT
All their careers they've spat and spit at each other. They've almost never agreed. But they do about this one.
"It'll be a doozie, that's for sure," said Martin. "Hopefully, it'll be a hell of a battle."
For years they've owned the same town. But they've never played the same town before. Not under the big top. Not with thousands of people sitting in the stands in the building where the Oilers' championship banners hang.
Ferbey and Martin have both been kings of the world capital of curling.
When one isn't, it's been the other.
Between them they've won 10 Briers, five world championships and one Olympic silver medal.
Several small towns in Alberta have seen them go at it in provincial finals. In the last decade, the purple heart winners have been, in order: Martin, Ferbey, Ferbey, Ferbey, Ferbey, Ferbey, Martin, Martin, Martin and Martin.
Martin leads in Brier appearances, 10-8. Ferbey leads in Brier wins, 6-4.
Ferbey leads in world championships, 4-1.
Martin leads in Olympics -- either 2-0 or 1-0, depending on whether you count Albertville (1992), when curling was a demonstration sport.
And now this afternoon, it's 50-year-old Ferbey versus 43-year-old Martin in what may be, unless they meet in the semifinal or final at the end of the week, the biggest game they ever play against each other.
"I'm sure the hometown will be cheering for both of us. Edmonton is the kind of city that would cheer for both," said Martin, who is experiencing playing in Rexall Place for the first time in his storied career.
Ferbey won the Brier here in 2005.
"I'm sure it will be a real good crowd both ways. I just hope it's a great game. Extra ends.
"Hopefully, we'll have hammer in the 11th," said Martin.
Martin was down 2-0 to Jeff Stoughton after three and Ferbey down 3-0 to Jason Gunnlaugson after two.
"For awhile there, it looked like we were in a death fight without a knife," said Ferbey, who said the situation demanded they curl their best game of the event the rest of the way -- and they did.
"I'm too old for games like that," he said.
But not for games like this.
"This will definitely be the biggest stage we've played each other.
"Hopefully, the fans won't pick one team or the other to cheer for but cheer for the shots we make," added Ferbey.
And which team will young Gunnlaugson, who took Martin down to last rock and had Ferbey on the run until he cracked a five-ender on the eighth, be cheering for?
"Well, I sure can see why they've done what they've done," said the new kid on the block after Ferbey finally was able to take him to school.
"Ferbey has done everything else in curling but get to the Olympics and it would be great for him to get there.
"But I'm a huge Martin fan. He has the team which has been doing it right now," said Gunnlaugson of the winner of the last two Briers.
Martin has owned Ferbey these last few years, winning all six games they've played at the provincials.
Five of the six games were one-rock, one-shot, one-end victories -- one featuring arguably the greatest circus shot in an elite level game in history.
"It's at 1 p.m.," said Ferbey. "Don't be late."