Neil Robertson moved within one win of capturing the Wuxi Classic title in back-to-back years by beating Barry Hawkins 6-3 in the semi-finals.
Australia’s Robertson beat John Higgins in the final of the season’s first ranking event last year and now needs to beat Joe Perry or Martin Gould in the final tomorrow to repeat the trick.
Victory in the best-of-19 final would give the 32-year-old the tenth ranking title of his career, which would bring him level with Jimmy White on the all-time list.
Playing his best snooker of the week, left-hander Robertson took the first two frames against Hawkins with breaks of 128 and 59. Kent-based Hawkins made 86 and 62 to recover to 2-2. Robertson’s 88 saw him regain the lead before a run of 63 from Hawkins made it 3-3.
A scrappy seventh frame went to Robertson and he made 61 in the next for 5-3. Hawkins looked set to win frame nine until he broke down on 50, and Roberton potted brown, blue and pink to stay on target for the £85,000 top prize.
“I’m going to be very determined tomorrow and nothing less than a win is acceptable,” said Robertson, who flies from China to Melbourne on Monday for his home tournament, the Australian Goldfields Open. “It’s nice to get to the final of the first event of the season. But I don’t want to come this far then get beaten in the final, especially as defending champion. I want to go to Australia with this title under my belt.”
Hawkins said: “I had a great chance to go 4-3 up but I messed it up – that was a big turning point. You have to take those chances when they come along. I didn’t time the ball as well today. But I can’t grumble because it’s been another decent week. Neil makes very few mistakes, he’s solid as a rock. I didn’t expect much from this event because I’ve been moving house so I only had a few days practice. So I’m pleased to get to the semis and I’m looking forward to next week in Australia now.”