Ding Junhui produced a resolute display to win a marathon last four encounter with world number one Mark Selby 6-5 and reach the final of the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix in Preston.
The Chinese number one was playing the more fluent snooker of the two in an epic semi-final, which amassed four hours and 38 minutes of playing time. Ding now faces a quick turnaround as he prepares to do battle with five-time World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan for the £100,000 top prize.
The clash will see the pair meet in a major final for the fifth time. The Rocket has prevailed in three out of their four showpiece showdowns so far. However, their most recent meeting in a ranking event was at at the 2017 World Championship, where Ding came out on top of a captivating quarter-final 13-10.
That last eight clash was followed by another blockbuster semi-final against Selby, who was a 17-15 victor on the way to his third world title. The year previously Ding also lost out to the Leicester cueman, this time in the 2016 World Championship final 18-14. Those gut wrenching Crucible defeats will make this victory all the sweeter for Ding, who is aiming to lift ranking silverware outside of China for the first time since the 2014 German Masters.
This evening’s Guild Hall tie got underway with a 47-minute frame. Selby eventually took the initiative with a fine long range green to clear the remaining colours and go 1-0 up. Ding restored parity in the second, before the pair proceeded to move up a level in the break building department.
The World Champion regained his advantage with a contribution of 87 in the third frame to go 2-1 up. However, breaks of 91 and 94 either side of the interval saw Ding take the lead for the first time at 3-2. They then traded blows before two-time UK Champion Ding moved to the verge of victory at 5-4 with a century run of 104.
A remarkable tenth frame lasted 52 minutes saw Ding require two snookers, which he got, before Selby eventually forced a decider. It was a final frame where Ding showed his metal, firing in a break of 83 to reach his 19th ranking event final.
The final will be played over 19 frames with the first session kicking off at 1pm.