Essex stars Stuart Bingham and Ali Carter collide for the right to become the new name on The Masters trophy at Alexandra Palace on Sunday.
One of the most unpredictable stagings in the 45-year history of The Masters has culminated with two first-time finalists bidding to join an elite group of 23 previous champions in the sport’s most prestigious invitational.
While the quality may not have been as high as the standard set in recent years, the drama and unpredictability of the event has atoned for that in a cauldron atmosphere.
Bingham finds himself in a first Masters final at the tenth attempt, banishing an otherwise dismal record in the competition which had seen him fail to win a match in eight of his other nine appearances.
The number 12 seed brushed aside Mark Williams 6-2 in his opener before reeling off five consecutive frames from 4-1 down to defeat 2018 finalist Kyren Wilson 6-4 in the Quarter-Finals.
He then powered past David Gilbert 6-2 in Saturday’s Semi-Finals to break new ground and move a step closer to a second Triple Crown title to add to his 2015 World Championship triumph.
Carter, meanwhile, has taken full advantage of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s withdrawal from the competition by winning through to the final 20 years on from his debut appearance.
The world number 17 kicked off with a 6-4 scalp of three-time champion Mark Selby in Round One before battling past two-time winner John Higgins 6-3 amid some latenight controversy surrounding a foul on a yellow which he insisted he had hit, forcing the referee to incorrectly overturn the initial decision.
Carter then saw off 2015 champion Shaun Murphy 6-3 in the Semi-Finals to move within one win of a first Triple Crown title since turning professional back in 1996.
This will be the 18th competitive meeting between the two players over the last 18 years, with Bingham having edged nine victories to Carter’s eight to date.
Carter, however, has won three of their four previous encounters in Triple Crown events, including a 6-5 success in the Wildcard Round of this very tournament in 2007.
Both Bingham and Carter have progressed to the final without making a single century break between them, but have underlined their battling qualities and unflappable composure under pressure.
The winner will pocket the richest-ever top prize on offer at The Masters: £250,000.
The final gets underway from 1pm GMT for a total of eight frames before being played to a finish over the best of 19 from 7pm.
Bingham: “It should be a good match. We used to play in the junior tournament in the Essex county and now we are playing in a major final.
“It would mean everything to lift the trophy – the history of the game and seeing the names on the list, it would be fantastic to be among them.”
Carter: “It would be pretty sweet. I have lost twice in the final at Sheffield to Ronnie so maybe the writing is on the wall.
“I have done a couple of interviews in the Eurosport studio and I said, ‘Thanks Ron’, to him.
“It’s been a tough few years but I’m still here and still fighting.
“I’ve been to hell and back and it’s special to be in the final but the job is not done yet.”