Ronnie O’Sullivan and Kyren Wilson held their nerve in extraordinary deciding frame shoot-outs to defeat Mark Selby and Anthony McGill 17-16 respectively and reach the 2020 World Championship final.
An astonishing climax to both Semi-Finals saw each go down to the wire as Wilson held off McGill in an historic hour-long exchange before O’Sullivan completed a remarkable comeback to deny his great rival.
O’Sullivan trailed Selby 13-9 at one stage but took the last two frames of the third session before taking the opening two frames of the final session to draw level.
Selby then re-established a two-frame lead which he maintained until frame 30 at 16-14, leaving O’Sullivan at the point of no return.
However, ‘The Rocket’ produced two spellbinding frames, firing in quick-fire breaks of 138 and 71 to set up a pulsating decider.
O’Sullivan seized the first scoring chance with a 64 break before missing a red to the corner pocket and allowing Selby back into contention at just 30 points adrift.
After a nail-biting exchange of escapes from snookers, O’Sullivan was eventually presented with another chance, which he gratefully accepted to seal his place in a seventh world final.
“For three days I’ve just been looking for a cue action where I can hit the ball half straight,” O’Sullivan told BBC Sport.
“I’m watching him [Selby] cue up and he’s got the perfect set-up and the perfect start by trying to make the score look respectable, but you could see from my play that it wasn’t great.
“I got lucky really I suppose.
“If I can find the cue action then I will enjoy the final. Cue action first and everything else is a bonus.”
Selby had led since the second session but a key turning point saw O’Sullivan snatch frame 23 to avert a 14-9 deficit and close the gap to 13-10.
Selby, bidding to reach his fifth World Championship final and challenge for a fourth crown, failed to make a single century break during the match but frustrated O’Sullivan for large spells with his astute safety and methodical approach.
That was until O’Sullivan came out firing with an ‘all out attack’ approach in the final session, opening up with a break of 114 and taking a risky approach to escaping from snookers.
Selby, who had won both of his previous Crucible meetings with O’Sullivan, including the 2014 final, was unhappy with his rival’s approach to the game, which he branded “disrespectful”.
“The last three frames I didn’t really get much of a chance, apart from right at the end where Ronnie missed a ball and I had a chance to clear up,” said Selby.
“During the match I felt it was a bit disrespectful the way he played.
“Every time I got him in a snooker he just got down and hit the balls a hundred miles and hour and they could have gone anywhere.
“I don’t know whether he was just in that frame of mind but I just thought it was a little bit disrespectful to me at the table.
“But the last three frames he played great and I’ve got no complaints.”
O’Sullivan will face world number eight Wilson in the weekend’s show-piece fixture after he came through a jaw-dropping decider against McGill earlier in the evening.
Having trailed 6-2 in the early stages, Wilson led 13-11 going into the final session, with the Scot having made a 136 break in response to Wilson’s 105 in frame 23.
Wilson began the final session strongly with a break of 94 but only for McGill to reel off three in a row with emphatic breaks of 84, 87 and 122 to draw level at 14-14.
A break of 82 saw Wilson edge back in front, but successive frames for McGill, including a break of 98, saw the tables turn once again as the qualifier moved within a frame of victory.
Wilson, though, dominated frame 32 to set up a grandstand finish as the pair battled to reach their first World Championship final.
What happened next will surely go down in snooker folk-law as the two players contested a 62-minute epic which broke the record for points scored in a single frame at The Crucible.
McGill conceded 35 points after failing to escape from a snooker eight times, before Wilson went in-off on two occasions as the drama escalated.
The defining moment then saw Wilson fluke match ball green, immediately apologising to his opponent while struggling to contain his emotions.
The frame then went down to the final pink, which Wilson eventually rolled in to get over the line.
“It’s a cruel game,” A tearful Wilson told BBC Sport. “I’ve dreamt of this moment but I didn’t want to get there like this.
“I held myself together right up until the end of that decider. It’s just mad what can happen on a snooker table.
“I felt like it was one of the best semi-finals ever at the Crucible. I felt it was such a good standard, I’m just annoyed that it ended that way.”
A shell-shocked McGill was bidding to become the first qualifier to win the world title since Shaun Murphy in 2005, having already come through two last-frame deciders en route to the Semi-Finals.
The 29-year-old admitted: “I don’t really think I’ve made a mistake to lose it, I enjoyed the fight and it was played in the right spirit.
“I feel like it has been stolen from me, not by Kyren but by the snooker gods.
“There’s got to be a loser and it was me.”
The final, which gets underway from 1.30pm BST on Saturday, will be played in front of a 300-strong crowd after fans were given the green light by the UK government to return to The Crucible.
The drama ?
The emotion ?
An astonishing end to an historic deciding frame… pic.twitter.com/7CSocXc6C4
— Live Snooker (@Livesnooker) August 14, 2020