Barry Hawkins will face Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final of the Shanghai Masters after defeating Ding Junhui 10-9 in a pulsating last four clash.
Hawkins now has the opportunity to defeat O’Sullivan in a final for the first time. He was denied the trophy in his only other showpiece meetings with the Rocket at the 2016 Masters and the 2013 World Championship.
Ding will go home disappointed, but has pocketed £60,000 thanks to his run to the last four.
England’s Hawkins took a slender 5-4 lead into this evening and pressed home that advantage early on to move 7-4 in front.
However, Ding wasn’t deterred won five in a row to himself move to the verge of victory at 9-7. Hawkins didn’t go away and fired in breaks of 101 and 60 to force a decider.
The Hawk held his nerve and produced a steely run of 67 to secure his place in tomorrow’s final where he will do battle with O’Sullivan for the £200,000 top prize.
Hawkins said: “It was great. Most of the crowd were on his side but I think a few were cheering for me. I felt pretty good. I got my chance and managed to hold myself together. To get into a big final like this is a really good start to the season.
“It would be amazing to win the tournament and lift the trophy. I know what I have got to do against Ronnie. You have to take chances and cut out silly mistakes. I’ve beat him before over a long distance. Although he has bashed me up most of the time. I just have to go out there and enjoy it. I’ve got nothing to lose.”
Afterwards Ding admitted that he might have to be selective with which events to play in this season, with a packed calendar to choose from.
“It is quite disappointing to lose the match this way, but I’ve had many worse tournaments so it is alright. It’s going to be a busy season with lots of tournaments. I have decided that I am going to pick and choose.”
No doubt, the Chinese crowd and the sponsors would have prefered to see Ding through. A final between the two “box office” players in Shanghai would have been a dream.
It wasn’t to be, although at 9-7 up Ding looked certain to win. Then Barry won the next frame and all a sudden you could feel that the match had turned. It’s hard to explain but it’s how I perceived it. When it came to the decider I was certain that Barry would win.
However, make no mistake, if both Ronnie and Barry play near their best we are in for a very high quality match. Anyone who watched their 2013 Final at the Crucible will know what I mean. Ronnie was probably playing his best ever snooker – himself said so – and it’s only when they reached the last session that Ronnie managed to shake Barry off. I wouldn’t make a prediction regarding who will win tomorrow, it will very much be about who is fresher and sharper on the day. The only certainties are that both want it badly and that Barry won’t be intimidated, nor will he give up.