Luca Brecel made a superb break in the deciding frame to beat Li Hang 6-5 and reach the final of the Evergrande China Championship.
Belgium’s 22-year-old Brecel will take on Shaun Murphy over 19 frames on Tuesday for the £150,000 top prize. Even defeat would guarantee world number 27 Brecel his career biggest pay day of £75,000.
He will be playing in the second ranking event final of his career; the first coming at the 2016 German Masters when he lost to Martin Gould. Victory for Brecel would make him the first player from continental Europe to win a ranking title.
Brecel took the opening frame with a break of 81, and might have nicked the second after getting the snooker he needed on the blue, but he missed a long blue which allowed China’s Li to level. Brecel won frame three on the colours then dominated the fourth with a top break of 52 to lead 3-1 at the interval.
Li, who had never previously been beyond the last 16 of a ranking event, came from 40-0 down to win frame five then made a 60 in the next as he levelled at 3-3. Brecel regained the lead with a 107 but Li took a scrappy eighth frame then made an 86 in the next to lead for the first time at 5-4. Both players had chances in the tenth, Brecel eventually taking it with an excellent pot on the penultimate red which set him up to clear to the blue.
As the time ticked past midnight, Li had the first chance of the decider but could only make 7, and Brecel stepped in with a cool 75 to clinch the tie.
“At 5-4 down I felt as if I couldn’t win,” said Brecel, who knocked out Ronnie O’Sullivan on Sunday. “I was so relieved to win and I played a good last frame. It was a lot tougher than it was against Ronnie because’s Li’s safety was incredible. Every time I thought I was going to be two frames ahead he cleared up – I couldn’t shake him off. At 5-4 down it went scrappy and I just hoped to get to 5-5 and then I thought I would have the advantage because I have more experience and I haven’t lost a deciding frame this season.
“It would be a dream come true to win my first ranking title, especially as it would put me into the top 16 and maybe the Masters.”