Plume-modified orogeny involves the interaction between a mantle plume and subducting oceanic lithosphere at accretionary margins. We propose that a plume can also be involved in collisional orogeny and accounts for the late Paleozoic geological relations in Central Asia. Continental collision between the Tarim and Central Tianshan–Yili blocks at the end Carboniferous resulted in an orogeny lacking continental-type (ultra)high-pressure [(U)HP] rocks and significant syncollision surface erosion and uplift, features normally characteristic of continent-continent interactions. Their absence from the Tianshan region corresponded with the arrival of a mantle plume beneath the northern Tarim. Elemental and isotopic data reveal an increasing influence of the mantle plume on magmatic petrogenesis from ca. 300 to 280 Ma, immediately after collision at 310–300 Ma. The rising mantle plume interrupted the normal succession of collisional orogenic events, destroying the deeply subducted continental crust and hence preventing slab break-off–induced continental rebound. Plume-modified continental collision thus limited continental (U)HP rock exhumation and associated surface uplift.