The final of the 2017 Dafabet Masters will be contested between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Joe Perry on Sunday.
The Alexandra Palace in London hosted two remarkable semi-finals on Saturday as the two Englishmen emerged from unlikely scenarios.
First, O’Sullivan produced scintillating snooker to come from 4-3 behind to deny the in-form Marco Fu a second Masters final berth, despite having earlier been forced to replace a deteriorating tip.
Countering a brace of tons from his opponent, which included a tournament high run of 141, O’Sullivan compiled breaks of 95, 122, 55, 63, 82, and 69 to see off a virtually helpless Fu 6-4.
Later on in the evening session, Perry looked to be heading for a fourth major semi-final exit when he was 5-2 down and in need of a snooker against close pal Barry Hawkins.
However, the 42 year-old forced an error and duly cleared before taking the next two frames with runs of 57 and 62 to force an unimaginable decider.
Hawkins, who was hoping to set up a rematch of last year’s final with O’Sullivan when he was hammered 10-1, appeared to steel himself in the final frame shoot-out but broke down on 50, before a gutsy 70 clearance by Perry completed the superb turnaround.
After almost 26 years of hard graft on the Main Tour, the world no.9 will now feature in the final of a Triple Crown event for the first time in his career.
Perry’s task if he wishes to go one step further and land a maiden major title could not be much greater, though.
After booking his place in a 12th Masters final, O’Sullivan is now an overwhelming favourite to capture what would be a record seventh Masters crown.
Both men have reached finals during the season so far with a success rate of zero from four, so glory for one of them in the 2016/17 campaign finally awaits.
Perry lost a close World Open final to Ali Carter during the summer before O’Sullivan was defeated in successive months towards the end of 2016 in the European Masters, Champion of Champions, and UK Championship finals.
In those showdowns against Judd Trump, John Higgins, and Mark Selby respectively, the ‘Rocket’ came up against competitors who would be fully expected to have the necessary tools to put O’Sullivan under immense pressure.
This is not to suggest that Perry doesn’t have the ability to produce the goods on any given day, but the odds are seriously stacked against him on this particular occasion.
Not only will the ‘Gentleman’ have to contend with his emotions over the course of a fixture which will represent the biggest of his career, but Perry must also deal with the prospect of facing a player he has only beaten twice in 15 previous attempts.
In addition, after his impressive triumph over Fu, a clearly ecstatic O’Sullivan looked like a cueist who was not going to let this opportunity pass him by very easily.
Offering some hope for Perry is the fact that, out of 11 prior appearances at this stage, the reigning champion has been toppled five times.
Those losses came at the hands of Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, Paul Hunter, John Higgins, and Mark Selby, so Perry would be joining some illustrious company if he manages to conjure up an upset.
The outcome of the opening few exchanges will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in determining how the affair between the pair will ultimately materialise.
It should go without saying that Perry needs a strong start, for if O’Sullivan establishes an early advantage it’s foreseeable to envisage a runaway victory akin to 12 months ago.
Live coverage of the final will be on BBC and Eurosport.