A crowd of panic-stricken SEPTA subway passengers looked on in horror yesterday as one male passenger repeatedly plunged a pair of scissors into another man, police said.

The violent confrontation unfolded about 1:20 p.m. as the subway car whisked south on Broad Street toward the Oregon Avenue stop, police said.

Sgt. Cynthia Kelly, of South Detectives, said the two men got caught up in some sort of dispute that led to one man stabbing the other in the arm, torso, shoulder and face.

The victim, a 46-year-old man whom police did not identify, was listed in guarded condition last night at Hahnemann University Hospital. He needed 35 stitches to close an abdomenal wound, and 15 stitches to close a gash on his forehead, police said.

Cops found the alleged assailant, Sheldon Mullings, at Methodist Hospital, where he was seeking treatment for a cut above his eye, Kelly said.

Mullings, 35, who also goes by the name Sheldon Millington, told an officer that he had been involved in an altercation on the subway, police said. He is expected to be charged with aggravated assault and related offenses, Kelly noted.

It appeared that no one on the subway came to the victim's aid.

"Lots of people were on there and saw this happen," Kelly said. "No one called 9-1-1. Everyone just got out of there."

The incident sparked a good deal of confusion as SEPTA officials tried to get a handle on where the stabbing occurred.

SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said late yesterday afternoon that surveillance cameras on the Oregon Avenue platform didn't show anyone getting off the subway who appeared to have been stabbed.

Supervisors inspected all of the cars and didn't find any evidence, such as blood spatter or a weapon, to suggest a stabbing had occurred.

It was unclear if they reviewed surveillance footage from the subway cars.

All of this led SEPTA officials to believe the stabbing had occurred above ground, Williams said. Police, however, were adamant that the attack occurred on the subway.

The Oregon Avenue station was closed for about four hours while police investigated. SEPTA had buses available for inconvenienced passengers, a spokesman said.