Judd Trump reached the Champion of Champions final on Friday courtesy of a 6-3 defeat of Mark Selby in the last four.
The 33 year-old raised his game when it mattered the most in Bolton to see off the challenge of his fellow former world number one.
Despite representing permanent presences at the highest echelons of the sport for years, it had actually been three years since they last faced each other in a match longer than five frames.
You’d have to go even further back to the 2015 German Masters for the most recent occasion that Selby had beaten Trump over a considerable distance.
But despite a typically gallant effort, the Jester was never able to get his nose in front on this occasion and will have to wait for another opportunity to stop the rot from their head-to-head.
Trump took the opening frame with a break of 89, and after his opponent briefly restored parity he extended his advantage to two frames by the mid-session interval.
Selby’s only contribution above 50 in the fifth frame helped him to reduce his arrears to one, and the four-time world champion subsequently got back on level terms following a scrappier sixth.
But Trump allowed Selby just 15 more points for the remainder of the tie, compiling runs of 83 and 114 in his next two visits to the table to move within one of victory.
The reigning champion duly wrapped up the success in the next frame to consign Selby to another defeat that prolongs his unusual record of having never won a tournament broadcast by ITV.
Trump will instead vie for successive Champion of Champions titles on Sunday, where he awaits the winner of Saturday’s second semi-final tie between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Fan Zhengyi.
“It was a tricky game, it always is against him,” Judd Trump said in his post-match interview upon reaching the final.
“I managed to get a good lead at 3-1. After the interval, I played a bad shot to let him in straight away.”
“He was able to sort of dictate the pace of the game and how the game was being played. He ended up fluking the ball at 3-2, and at that point I was thinking it could be really crucial.
“It’s important against the best players to keep that two-frame lead – you always feel a lot more comfortable.
“He ended up winning that one, but I could see how disappointed he was in the next frame to see the black jumping out, and I felt it was then my time that I had to punish him.
“I did that and scored heavily in the next frame, and then I was able to get over the line in the last frame.
“It’s nice now to know that I’m in the final with a day off and I can watch the other two battle it out tomorrow.
“I can just relax and look forward to another amazing final. This is a tournament that I love playing in.
“I love coming here, the atmosphere is always brilliant, the crowd support is brilliant, so it’s just nice to be back involved in a final again.”
Featured photo credit: ChampOfChamps
Selby has not even reached a final since he won the World Championship in May 2021.