Ronnie O’Sullivan and Shaun Murphy will contest the final of the Champion of Champions in Coventry on Sunday.
Murphy booked a showdown with the “Rocket” after fighting back from 4-2 down to beat Luca Brecel 6-4 in the last four in front of a packed crowd at the Ricoh Arena.
The Englishman, who had lost four out of his previous five encounters with Brecel, looked to be heading for a premature exit at the penultimate hurdle but took advantage of his experience on the big stage to reach the final of the invitational event for the first time.
Brecel looked in control of proceedings when he established a two frame cushion late on but a terrific 131 from Murphy pulled the gap to within one frame before a break of 73 levelled the encounter.
Both players had chances in the remaining exchanges but Murphy took advantage of Brecel’s evident nerves to book a place in the final.
The 2005 world champion will have to be at his very best to challenge O’Sullivan on his current form.
The “Rocket” hammered former champions Neil Robertson and John Higgins in the opening stages before fighting back from 2-0 down to comfortably deny surprise challenger Anthony Hamilton in the last four.
O’Sullivan has a far superior head-to-head record against Murphy, with three notable World Championship victories from their previous clashes with one another.
The pair has met twice in finals before, with one triumph apiece in the now defunct Premier League.
However, aside from a rare success in the German Masters in 2015, Murphy has struggled to live with the 42 year-old in most of their previous battles.
O’Sullivan, indeed, is gunning for a hat-trick of Champion of Champions crowns after failing to record the feat this time last year following a narrow defeat to old rival John Higgins in the final.
That represented the only loss the former world number one has ever suffered in this event, having previously lifted the trophy in 2013 and again in 2014.
This kind of competition, open to the very elite in the game with only the tournament winners from the prior twelve months invited, suits O’Sullivan down to the ground as he thrives under the conditions of competing against the very best players.
Murphy, a triple crown champion, possesses the attacking prowess to challenge O’Sullivan but he’ll have to rely on his opponent having an off-day if he’s to upset the odds and pocket the £100,000 top prize.
O’Sullivan has had his moments of frailty over the past couple of seasons, with standout defeats to Mark Selby, John Higgins, and Judd Trump in major finals to speak of.
Yet, it’d be surprising if he lets this opportunity slip by, especially as he rides the wave of confidence built from his recent glory in the English Open last month in Barnsley.
The outset of the two-session fixture will undoubtedly be pivotal, but Murphy will likely require a strong start if he’s to deny O’Sullivan another major title on home soil.
Live coverage of the match will be on ITV4, other international TV networks, and on Facebook.
Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)