Marco Fu will play Judd Trump in the 2017 Players Championship final after a magnificent fightback to stun Ding Junhui 6-5 in a highly entertaining all-Asian battle at Venue Cymru in Llandudno on Saturday.
The two highest-ranked players from the Far East served up an 11-frame thriller for the Welsh crowd, with Fu recovering from 5-3 down by winning the next two to force a decider, in which he produced a cool 98 clearance to snatch a dramatic victory and book his place in Sunday’s showpiece.
Both players missed fairly easy balls in the early stages of the opening frame, but Ding pounced on Fu’s error by firing in a brilliant break of 99 to draw first blood.
The Chinese sensation was looking good for 2-0, but broke down on 59 after missing a fairly simple red to the corner pocket.
Fu, who was appearing in his fifth semi-final since the start of December, made the most of his unexpected opportunity by clearing with 59 to force a re-spotted black which, following a brief safety battle, he eventually sunk to snatch the second frame away from his opponent.
The man from Hong Kong then took the lead for the first time as a magnificent 106 clearance – his 40th century of the season – turned the contest on its head, and he built a commanding 55-2 advantage in the next.
However, with the balls positioned far from ideally, world number five Ding somehow managed to produce a miraculous 54 clearance – playing some magnificent positional and development shots along the way – to snatch the fourth frame on the black.
Fu responded by controlling a generally scrappy fifth to regain the lead after the interval, but Ding dominated the next with 59 to level the contest once more.
The 2013 winner of this event then moved back in front after a neat run of 72, before taking charge of frame eight to make it three on the spin and move to within one of the final.
At this point, world number nine Fu had only managed 24 points over the last three frames, but the Scottish Open champion kept his hopes alive with a timely 61 clearance from 43-9 down to reduce the deficit, before eventually taking a nervy 10th frame to set up a nail-biting decider.
Ding had the first opportunity but missed a black off its spot when looking good on 30 and, following a subsequent safety battle, Fu grabbed his chance with both hands with a cool clearance of 98 to complete the turnaround and advance to the final.