Mark Williams will face David Gilbert in the World Open final after both players emerged from tight semi-final encounters on Saturday in Yushan.
Williams once again demonstrated his calmness under pressure as the world champion followed up his quarter-final turnaround against Jack Lisowski with another come-from-behind victory in the last four.
The world champion looked dead and buried when he trailed Noppon Saengkham 5-2 but reeled off the final four frames to deny the young Thai competitor a maiden berth in a ranking event final.
Gilbert, meanwhile, booked his spot in Sunday’s showdown courtesy of a hard-fought 6-4 defeat of the fifth seed Barry Hawkins.
The Englishman’s unexpected run to the title deciding clash matches his previous best performance in a tournament of this status, when he memorably embarked on a run to the International Championship final in 2015.
On that occasion, Gilbert was denied a first ranking trophy by John Higgins and it’ll be another famous “Class of ’92” member who will be the outright favourite again to harm the 37 year-old’s chances of joining the illustrious band of ranking event champions.
Even though he’ll be widely considered as the underdog, this still does represent a huge opportunity for Gilbert to finally fulfill the potential that he has always possessed.
A stylish player who can score heavily when in form, many assumed that Gilbert would make the leap into the higher echelons of the game a few years ago when he seemed to announce himself with his run to the final in Daqing.
But Gilbert has hovered just inside or outside the top 20 ever since with a level of dull consistency that has seen him regularly feature in the middle rounds of competitions but rarely get to the quarter-finals or beyond.
That’s not something that the mighty Williams can relate to in recent times as it feels like the 43 year-old is an ever-present at the business end of events.
In fact, the three-time world champion’s run this week marks the 11th time since the start of last season that he has reached at least the quarter-finals of a ranking event.
In that period, Williams has won three titles, including obviously the big one in Sheffield, to bring his overall tally to 21 while his prize money will leap over the £1 million mark if he were to capture the spoils in the best of 19 frames encounter.
Indeed, Williams is reeling in world number one Mark Selby, who has loads of ranking points to come off this season, and it appears as though either him or Ronnie O’Sullivan could recapture the top spot at some juncture of this campaign.
All of that is for another time, though, as there’s silverware and the prestige of contesting the World Open final to contend with first.
Williams and Gilbert have played each other six times in the past with the former boasting a 4-2 head-to-head record against the cueist knows as the “Angry Farmer”.
Riding a huge wave of success at the moment, it’s hard to see past Williams prevailing, especially as he has fought back from the brink twice already in the last couple of days to still be in the hunt.
Gilbert will be hoping for a fast start, or at the very least to keep in touch after the opening session, as he bids to realise a long-held ambition.
It marks the second time in as many ranking tournaments this season that the final has consisted of a proven winner, world champion, and former world number one against an Englishman hoping to land a defining triumph for the first time.
In Riga, Neil Robertson got the better of Jack Lisowski – will the outcome in the World Open final similarly go the way of the favourite or can the underdog upset the odds and reign supreme in Yushan?