The 2018 China Championship final will be contested between multiple world champions Mark Selby and John Higgins on Sunday in Guangzhou.
Both players emerged from encounters with two of the host nation’s brightest young prospects as Higgins overcame Lyu Haotian to reach a 49th ranking event final of a stellar career and world number one Selby held off Zhao Xintong.
The two semi-final clashes were quite different in terms of both the entertainment and quality that was produced at the Tianhe Sports Centre.
Higgins was nowhere near his best, as has actually been the case for much of the tournament, but the Scot demonstrated his uncanny ability to prevail even with a sub par display as he outlasted Lyu in a turgid battle 6-3.
Selby, on the other hand, compiled a few big breaks to establish a seemingly comfortable 4-1 lead over his 21 year-old challenger, who was featuring at this late stage for the first time in his career, before a late charge threatened to cause an upset.
Zhao had fought back superbly against world champion Mark Williams and recent Shanghai Masters runner-up Barry Hawkins in the previous two rounds and when he levelled at 4-4 it looked as though another shock was on the cards.
But Selby, like Higgins in fact, knows just how to dig deep when it matters most and the 35 year-old won a crucial ninth frame to regain the lead before sealing the victory with a timely break of 63 in the last.
While there’ll surely be many big games in the future that include Zhao and Lyu in the line-up, Sunday’s showdown for glory on this occasion boasts a couple of the all-time legends in the sport.
Higgins will bid for a 31st ranking event crown while a triumph for Selby would see the Englishman land a 15th career title at this level and take him above Neil Robertson into sixth on the all-time list.
Indeed, the latter has enjoyed a love affair with China in recent seasons, with five out of his last nine ranking successes occurring in the Asian country since 2015.
Higgins is no stranger to acquiring silverware in the region of course, with the 43 year-old back into the China Championship final for the second time following his prior victory in the event when it was originally staged as a lucrative invitational in 2016.
The last time Selby and Higgins faced off against one another was at the Crucible last year when the former bagged his third world crown at the expense of the “Wizard of Wishaw” subsequent to a gripping final in Sheffield that ended 18-15.
Selby has actually prevailed in the last three meetings between the duo and has a 10-5 overall head-to-head record but, such is his pedigree, Higgins can never be discounted at this stage of a competition.
Neither player has really performed to the heights of their potential this week but that has often been the way throughout their entire careers and arguably the reason why they have been so successful.
Both cueists understand that style over substance can often get in the way of advancing in a tournament, and that a dogged display when the chips are down can be just as effective as knocking in the big breaks.
Higgins and Selby can frequently turn it on like a flick of a switch, though, and that light usually flickers more brightly when the trophy is on the line.
Who’ll come out on top in this clash worth a whopping £150,000 is arguably the toss of coin.