Ronnie O’Sullivan felt he was fortunate to overturn a three-frame deficit to beat Barry Hawkins 6-4 and reach a record-equalling 57th ranking event final in the Players Championship.
Hawkins won a scrappy opening frame and then compiled breaks of 109 and 87 to race into a 3-0 lead in Milton Keynes.
O’Sullivan needed three chances to reduce his deficit as he managed a highest break of just 27 in the first four frames, but it was a different story after the interval as the world champion rattled in breaks of 83, 75, 90 and 79.
Hawkins replied with a break of 81 to reduce his deficit and led 70-32 in the 10th frame, but O’Sullivan produced a cool 42 clearance to book his place in his 57th final – equalling Stephen Hendry’s record – against either John Higgins or Kyren Wilson.
“Just waiting around all day feels like forever and you think I’m probably going to go and play useless tonight so you have all them thoughts going through your head,” O’Sullivan told ITV4.
“It was a struggle to start, Barry played well and I just had to hang in there I suppose. I played all right after the interval but I just kept thinking something is going to go wrong and even towards the end I thought I was going to miss something.
“I was getting really tight towards the end. I don’t know if the nine-mile run this morning might have had an effect but I’m not going to stop. It’s the best thing in my life at the moment.
“I was twitching there at the end and Barry should have had me, I got lucky there.”
Earlier in the day, Higgins restricted Mark Selby to just seven points as he thrashed the three-time world champion 6-0 in the quarter-finals.
Higgins made breaks of 60, 70 and 63 in winning the first three frames without conceding a single point.
Selby managed six points in the next frame but lost it 75-6 and Higgins wrapped up an extraordinarily one-sided contest with a century in frame five and breaks of 49 and 60 in the sixth.
The four-time world champion, who also competed a clean sweep over Welsh Open winner Jordan Brown in the first round, told ITV4: “I can’t play any better than the two matches I’ve played so far.
“I felt in control and I couldn’t believe Mark’s only scored seven points because I’m too busy zoned in in the match. I can’t believe I’ve done that to someone like Mark Selby, it’s unreal.
“It was as close to perfect that I could ever play so to do it against Mark is a feather in my cap. I’m over the moon.”
Selby admitted he was outplayed by Higgins, adding: “I didn’t really do hardly anything wrong.
“The first three frames I didn’t have one chance at a pot. John played outstanding and shut me out from start to finish. It’s not as if I was missing ball after ball and giving John clear-cut chances.”