Mark Selby came from 5-3 down to beat Mark Allen 6-5 in a five-hour battle to reach the final of the 19.com English Open in Crawley.
In an exciting finish, Allen missed opportunities to win as Selby took the last three frames to reach the final of a Home Nations event for the first time since the series was launched in 2016.
He will meet David Gilbert or Tom Ford over 17 frames for the £70,000 first prize on Sunday. The champion will go to next month’s 19.com Northern Ireland Open in Belfast a quarter of the way to landing the £1 million bonus on offer for winning all four events in the series.
Selby will be playing in his 25th ranking final and aiming for his 16th title, which would bring him level with Neil Robertson. He is aiming to win his first title since the 2018 China Championship and first on UK soil since he landed his captured his third World Championship crown in 2017.
Breaks of 82 and 93 helped Leicester’s Selby take a 3-1 lead, then Allen hit back after the interval, winning frame five and making a 96 for 3-3. Frame seven lasted 67 minutes and came down to a battle on the colours, Allen winning it to go ahead. The eighth was also scrappy and once again Antrim’s Allen came out on top to go 5-3 up.
In the ninth, Allen was on 62 and just two pots away from victory when his attempt to double a red to a centre pocket narrowly missed. It came down to the pink and black, Selby getting the better of a safety battle and potting both balls to keep his hopes alive. And he added frame ten with a run of 57.
World number five Selby had first chance in the decider, making 29 before missing a tricky blue. Allen replied with 24 then failed to convert a tough long red to a baulk corner. That proved his last shot as Selby added 64. Remarkably, the pair have met seven times in best-of-11 matches and all seven have finished 6-5.
“I had to dig in and show my resolve from 5-3,” said 36-year-old Selby. “Before that Mark was playing well, he looked confident and he was putting me in a lot of trouble. We always have close games and it was good to come out the winner this time. The double he went for at 5-3, I thought it was in from where I was sitting. I was lucky.
“Last season my safety was letting me down so it’s nice to get that side of my game back. I get on really well with both David Gilbert and Tom Ford so it will be great to play either of them in the final.”