Marco Fu has pulled off a fantastic comeback to edge out an all-Asian clash with Ding Junhui 6-5 and reach the final of the Ladbrokes Players Championship.
It’s the Hong Kong potter’s second consecutive win over Ding, having beaten him at the inaugural China Championship in Guangzhou earlier this season.
The result means that Fu has now accumulated over £300,000 prize money in a single season for the first time and if he picks up the £125,000 top prize tomorrow it would be the largest single payday of his career.
Standing in Fu’s way will be an in-form Judd Trump. Last time they met it was Fu who came out on top, winning an enthralling encounter 6-5 at this year’s Masters.
Ding burst out of the blocks in the opener, although he couldn’t quite make the ton, ending his run on 99.
The 12-time ranking winner looked odds on to go two up in the second frame. He made a break of 59 to lead 66-7. However, Fu cleared to the black with 59 to set up a re-spot. After a safety exchange, Ding attempted to push the boat out with a double and left an easy black for Fu. That allowed the Hong Kong potter back into the match and he took full advantage making a break of 106 in the next to take the lead at 2-1.
The last frame before the interval provided immense drama. Ding trailed 55-2 when he embarked upon an extraordinary clearance to take the frame by one point on the black. ITV commentator Phil Yates described the break as ‘one of the greatest clearances you are ever likely to see’.
They then traded frames, before Ding made the first significant burst to the line. A run of 72 helped him to take to the front at 4-3. He then moved within one of victory by claiming the eighth frame. From that point on the 29-year-old had several chances to close out the match, however it was Fu showing consistency at the key moments.
The Scottish Open Champion came from behind in the ninth frame, stringing together a run of 61 to keep the match alive. Ding had further opportunities to close out the tie in the tenth frame, but it was Fu who managed to force a decider.
Once again Ding was in first. He made 30 before inexplicably missing a black to allow Fu back into the frame. Following a brief safety exchange Fu converted a middle range red and went on to make 98 to finish off the fightback and clinch his place in the final.
Fu remarked: “Towards the end I feared the worst. You don’t come back that often against a player of Ding’s quality. It’s always very pleasing to win matches like this from 5-3 down.
“I think on form Judd is the best player in the world at the moment so it is going to be a tough final,” said the 39-year-old. “I’m just happy to be in the final again and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”