Barry Hawkins won a pulsating semi-final encounter with Judd Trump 6-5 to set up a Cazoo Masters final showdown with Neil Robertson.
The Londoner’s first appearance in a Masters title match came back in 2016, when he also defeated Trump in the last four. He was emphatically beaten 10-1 by Ronnie O’Sullivan on that occasion.
Hawkins will be hoping for a closer contest tomorrow when he meets Robertson with a £250,000 top prize and the Paul Hunter Trophy on the line.
The Alexandra Palace crowd were also treated to final frame drama in this afternoon’s first semi-final, when Robertson came from requiring two snookers to beat Mark Williams.
It’s the first time both semi-finals have come down to a decider since 2002, when Paul Hunter beat Alan McManus 6-5 and Williams defeated Jimmy White by the same scoreline.
A tense 30-minute opening frame this evening came down to a safety exchange on the blue. Eventually Hawkins deposited a superb long range pot and added the pink and black to move 1-0 up.
Trump responded immediately to draw level at 1-1 following a contribution of 86, before hitting the front by adding the third courtesy of a 63 break.
An important last frame before the mid-session also came down to the colours. Once again it was the Hawk who pounced, taking it on the pink to draw level at 2-2.
When play got back underway Hawkins continued his momentum as he pushed to establish a stranglehold on proceedings. Breaks of 60 and 124 helped him to move 4-2 ahead.
World number two Trump showed his resolve and bounced back with three in a row, including breaks of 65 and 54, to come within a frame of the win at 5-4. However, Hawkins refused to back down and ensured the tie went the distance with runs of 46 and 76 in the tenth.
Hawkins gained control in the decider by crafting a contribution of 58. Trump missed a difficult opportunity with a red to the left middle and that proved to be his final shot. Hawkins punched the air with joy after getting over the line and celebrated with the raucous and adoring London crowd.
“I’ve had a few big wins in the past, but that is definitely the biggest win in terms of playing in front of that many people, the prestige of the event and playing against Judd,” said 42-year-old Hawkins.
“I couldn’t help but celebrate at the end. It was a massive occasion, a massive event and a massive crowd. All my friends and family were up there. I was giving them something to cheer as well, but inside I was bubbling. Getting closer and closer to that winning line it was building. It was completely natural and it got the crowd going. It was an unbelievable feeling.
“I’ve got a mountain to climb against Neil tomorrow. He is an unbelievable player and you don’t fancy him to miss a ball with that cue action of his. I have to block all of that out, forget who I’m playing and concentrate on what I’m doing. I will enjoy every moment of it and try my best.”
Trump said: “I felt good and felt like I’d take my chance at the end but I just didn’t get one. That is just the way the game goes. He completely shut me out from 5-4. I made a mistake and let him in straight away. You can’t do that at this level and it went 5-5. I was just hoping for half a chance and I didn’t get any.
“Everyone will be happy for him. He has been to quite a few major finals now and he is one of the nicest guys on tour. Neil is also a great guy so it will be a great final.”