A break of 86 in the ninth gave Selby some much-needed respite before the errors crept back in - an undercooked roll up to the green in frame 11 a particularly costly example.
John Higgins predicted before the match began that Selby might one day match a World Championship record.
Four-time World Champion John Higgins made light work of Kyren Wilson in their Quarter Final as he beat the 25-year-old 13-6 to go through to the semi finals.
And he ruthlessly capitalised on an unusually poor start from Selby to snatch a 6-2 lead after the first session in Sheffield.
World number one Selby opened with breaks of 76 and 62 but Higgins' superb 141 - the third highest break of the tournament - turned the session around.
Selby was guilty of throwing away a frame in the seventh as he led 52-1 only to miss a red and see Higgins come back with a break of 58.More news: New scrutiny of timeline after Arkansas executes 4th inmate
He returns with a 10-7 deficit but at one stage was six frames adrift of John Higgins, looking in dire trouble and facing near-certain defeat.
Scot Higgins is 42 this month - the oldest Betfred World Championship finalist since the man known as "Dracula" lost to Alex Higgins 35 years ago aged 49.
In the fifth Higgins let Selby in only to then find himself back on the table as his opponent was unable to dislodge the reds that had nestled on the side cushion, and Higgins made no mistake this time as he took a lead for the first time.
Mark Selby produced a determined finish to emerge from day one of the World Snooker Championship final trailing John Higgins by just three frames at 10-7. "Every shot felt like a pint of blood in that frame".
Can Higgins defy his own expectations?
The atmosphere is unbelievable, when you get introduced out there there's no better feeling.More news: Cahill joy as Chelsea pass 'huge' title test
Higgins is seeking to become the oldest victor since Welshman Ray Reardon, who was 45 when he won in 1978.
Selby's memory of that match are foggy, but he remembers well that the third session of the match had to be clipped two frames short because of the pedestrian pace. "I believe next year will be good".
"John seemed to be mentally not with it, missing a lot of easy balls and giving me chance after chance". "That was my chance and if I didn't take it then I think the match would have got away from me and Ding could have come through".
That very mix of scoring prowess and tactical superiority is the reason why he'll be a significant favourite to beat Higgins on Sunday and Monday despite the latter being able to boast considerably more ranking event trophies.
BBC pundits described the Selby-Ding match as one of the all-time greatest to be staged at the venue, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary of hosting the tournament.More news: Green Bay Packers: Positions of need for the team on Draft Day