Mark Allen and Stuart Bingham will contest the 2014 Shanghai Masters final on Sunday in China.
Defending champion Ding Junhui was involved in a tough encounter with Bingham and the Chinese Sensation let a 4-2 lead slip as he succumbed to a 6-4 defeat in front of his home crowd.
Semi-final day was all about the clash between Marks Selby and Allen, though, as the latter fought back from three down with four to play to edge the world champion in a thriller.
Selby had got off to the perfect start as breaks of 70 and 116 gave him a 2-0 lead, and he surged further ahead with some solid play and a bit of good fortune to seemingly boast an unassailable 5-2 advantage.
Allen, in truth, had struggled at this point to find a foothold in the match but an impressive run of form that had seen the ‘Pistol’ win 16 out of his last 17 ties on the Main Tour ensured that his head never dropped.
That solitary loss ironically came at the hands of 31 year-old Selby in the final of the Riga Open, when funnily enough the ‘Jester’ came from 3-0 down to win four straight frames to collect his first silverware of the season.
Allen had done likewise before on his opponent, reversing a 5-2 deficit in the last four of the 2012 World Open as he went on to claim his maiden ranking event title.
In all, four out of the duo’s five encounters – outside of the Championship League – prior to today’s tie had gone to the wire, and Allen provided the head-to-head with another nail-biter.
After breaks of 115 and 64 brought the scores level at 5-5, Selby appeared to finally be approaching the winning line when he made a break of 63 in the 11th frame.
Despite running out of position and his challenger compiling a run of 40 to get back into it, Selby orchestrated another chance by potting the final red but crucially missed what was effectively match ball pink to the middle pocket.
Allen duly grasped his opportunity, clearing the table to pinch it on the final black to the delight of the exhilarated crowd inside the arena.
Later in the day, the ticket-holders were desperate to see their man Ding reach the final for the second successive year but it wasn’t to be after a dogged performance by Stuart Bingham.
The 38 year-old remarkably had a better head-to-head record against 11-time ranking event champion Ding and that was clear for everyone to see after the Englishman’s resilience in fighting back in the second half of the match.
Even though the encounter was enhanced by an array of big breaks, plenty of tactical bouts ensured that many of the frames were drawn out affairs.
Still, it appeared as though a patient Ding had the better of it when he won a lengthy sixth frame to move 4-2 clear and within sight of the winning post.
Yet, Bingham rarely let his opponent in after that and stretched his win-loss record against the 27 year-old to 7-4 with runs of 63, 59 and 97 in the last for what was in the end a surprisingly comfortable victory.
It sets up an intriguing clash between Bingham and Allen, a rivalry that has a long history following comments by the latter in 2010 that ‘Ballrun’ possessed no bottle.
Following a couple of firey bouts, it appeared that their feud had died down but this major final could be about to reignite the flame.
Indeed, they haven’t played since the 2011 Australian Open quarter-final, which Bingham won and subsequently went onto claim his one and only ranking event crown so far.
Whether or not there is any needle between them is secondary to what will surely be an evenly matched affair that could go either way.
Well, a bit needle would do no harm, would it?
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