Shaun Murphy came from 10-4 down to beat Kyren Wilson 17-12 and reach the final of the Betfred World Championship for the fourth time.
Wilson looked by far the stronger player in the early stages but the contest turned at the end of the second session when Murphy stole two frames to go from 10-4 to 10-6. World number six Wilson later led 12-9 but from that point Murphy gathered momentum and raced over the finishing line in the concluding session, making five breaks over 50.
Murphy goes through to face Mark Selby over a possible 35 frames on Sunday and Monday for the trophy and top prize of £500,000. Having won the title in 2005, he is aiming to join an elite group of just six other players to have held the silverware more than once at the Crucible.
World number seven Murphy has lost two of his three previous Sheffield finals; he was runner-up to John Higgins in 2009 and Bingham in 2015. The 38-year-old will be aiming for a tenth career ranking title from his 22nd ranking final.
Murphy’s performance over the past fortnight is a reversal of fortunes given how poor his form has been for much of the season. He has reached just one other ranking event semi-final, and before this event lay 18th on the one-year ranking list.
Adversely affected by lockdown more than most due to restrictions at his base in Dublin, his usual dedication to practice has suffered. But Murphy has found a wave of inspiration at his favourite venue, and has followed up his victory over world number one Judd Trump in the quarter-finals with another flamboyant display of long potting and break-building.
His swagger and confidence around the table are back in abundance while his attacking approach brings back memories of his greatest triumph 16 years ago.
Wilson finished runner-up to Ronnie O’Sullivan last year and must have believed he could go one better this time after beating Neil Robertson to reach the last four. But he made too many errors from 10-4 up against Murphy and the 29-year-old’s ultimate ambition of conquering the Crucible remains unfulfilled.
Murphy took the first frame of the final session with a break of 78 to lead 13-12. Wilson had first chance in the next and made 35 before suffering a slice of misfortune as he potted a red and split the pack only for the cue ball to go in-off. Murphy punished him with a 91 clearance.
Runs of 117 and 77 put Murphy 16-12 ahead at the interval. A break of 58 gave him control of frame 29, and he clinched victory with a shot which summed up his evening, planting one red on to another to double it across the table into a centre pocket.
Murphy enjoyed interacting with the Crucible crowd throughout the match
“Apart from winning the tournament, this is the best feeling you get in snooker,” said Murphy. “Will I sleep tonight? I’m not sure. My game is in really good shape. I have run into people playing out of their skin this season, but this fortnight things have gone my way. I was 6-2 and 10-4 down but I kept telling myself the finish line was still a long way off. In matches of that length there is always ebb and flow.
“The crowd has made a massive difference, they have been my 12th man. They have fed me and I have tried to give them a bit back. I have always needed that big stage. All the top psychologists say you have got to enjoy it out there to perform to your best. There have been times this season where I have not really enjoyed it. But I have this week.
“It would mean the absolute world to win a second title. It would be a thrill to be in that club of players who have won it more than once. I’ll be second favourite in the final and that suits me down to the ground.”
Wilsons said: “Shaun’s long potting – he was going for shots a lot of players wouldn’t look at and just hammering them home. When he gets that Rolls Royce cue action going he is hard to stop. The frame at 10-5 was huge, he raked in a long red and made it look easy.
“I am having to hold myself back from throwing the microphone out of the window. I am raging. I came here to win the tournament, not to get to the semi-finals. I’m still knocking on the door and I’ll be back next year.”
Wilson admitted he was annoyed by Murphy’s fist-pumping celebrations in the arena at certain moments of the match.
“I think it looks a bit silly, it’s not for me,” he added. “He has to do what he can to try to get to me, I suppose. I’m not going to say that did. Fair play, he used his experience and he’s a great champion.”