Luca Brecel produced the greatest ever Crucible comeback as he won 11 frames in a row against Si Jiahui to book his place in the World Snooker Championship final.
The Belgian, who conquered Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-final, looked certain to be heading home as he trailed 14-5 in the race to 17 after a dominant opening by Si.
But he started his miraculous recovery by winning the final five frames of Friday’s night session and offered up more of the same on Saturday afternoon to complete a remarkable 17-15 victory.
In doing so Brecel became the first player in Crucible history to overturn a nine-frame deficit and booked his first final in Sheffield, having never previously got past the first round.
It was difficult not to feel some sympathy for Si, who at 20 years old looked set to become the youngest Crucible finalist in history, as he looked increasingly solemn in his chair as Brecel kept on winning frame after frame.
To his credit he stopped Brecel’s run of 11 in a row with a composed break of 91 and then had chances to send the match into a final-frame decider before a clipped red along the cushion allowed the Belgian to close out a famous victory.
Brecel said: “At 14-12, 14-13 I knew I had a chance, but I think 14-14 I was really believing it because I could see he was struggling and I was playing great stuff.
“The whole game I was expecting to lose, even with a session to spare, so to even have a chance to win was the craziest feeling ever in my body and I can’t believe I did it.
“I have never won a game here and now I am in the final, it is some story. It is going to take a while to sink in.”
Si hopes the punishing loss can help hm become a better player.
“I was feeling kind of disappointed, but not very, he played nearly perfect snooker in the final two sessions and my safety let me down.
Brecel will play either Mark Allen or Mark Selby in the final, with their semi-final coming to a finish later on Saturday.
Allen won three of the final four frames of the morning session to reduce his deficit to 11-10.
Former champion Stephen Hendry accused the pair of casting a “dark cloud” over the Crucible with their attritional play during a second session on Friday that was halted three frames early.
Although it was hardly thrilling stuff, they at least managed eight frames in the opening session on Saturday, with Selby turning his 7-6 lead into an 11-10 advantage to set up a tense evening decider.
But, despite the clear water, he still did not look comfortable and some loose play helped Allen pull back to 10-9, with Selby missing a blue in the 19th frame while attempting to force a re-spotted black.
He extended the gap to two in convincing fashion, but it is Allen, bidding to reach his first World Championship final, who has a modicum of momentum after finishing the session with a break of 92.