Thepchaiya Un-Nooh battled back from 5-2 and 6-4 behind to edge out Hossein Vafaei 7-6 and reach the Six Red World Championship final in Bangkok.
The popular Thai speed merchant had to display fortitude as much as flair in a thrilling semi-final that saw Vafaei miss a tricky pink to the green pocket in the penultimate frame that would have sealed a 7-5 victory.
He lifted the title in 2015 with an 8-2 filleting of Liang Wenbo before suffering a similar defeat by the same scoreline to Mark Williams in 2017.
Ding Junhui booked his spot in the final (8am UK time on Saturday) with a 7-4 win over recent German Masters finalist Tom Ford in the second semi-final.
The 2016 winner astonishingly missed a yellow off its spot to leave his opponent needing a snooker on the cusp of a 5-1 lead after compiling 63 in the fourth frame and watched as Ford roared back to level at 4-4 with a fabulous 70 knock in the eighth frame.
But Ding, who had suffered a few untimely miscues at close range, redoubled his efforts to see out the final three frames in style with further contributions of 70 and 64 to exend his quest for the £100,000 first prize.
Ding has overcome defending champion Stephen Maguire, world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham during his run to the title match at the Thammasat University Convention Centre in Pathum Thani.
He claimed the trophy seven years ago with an 8-7 win over Bingham before losing the 2018 final 8-4 to Kyren Wilson.
Thepchaiya – who top scored with breaks of 50 and 59 – will have a vociferous crowd behind him when he meets the Chinese sporting icon over the best-of-15 frames showpiece.
Both men will fancy their chances of joining Mark Davis and Maguire as the only multiple winners of the Six Red trophy. Thepchaiya will perhaps wonder how he is still standing in the tournament after trailing a tension-packed semi-final until the final frame.
Vafaei will certainly question how he managed to lose the match after his opponent missed a routine green in the penultimate frame when his fellow former Shoot Out winner seemed certain to force the decider.
He slotted the green, brown and blue, but could not find precise position on the pink before misjudging the angle in narrowly failing to slot to the green pocket.
A tactical joust ensued before Thepchaiya was left with a black across the table to the left-hand centre pocket, not dissimilar to the famous pot Stephen Hendry missed in losing the 1998 Masters final 10-9 to Mark Williams at the old Wembley Conference Centre.
It was a do-or-die effort as Thepchaiya rolled the white dead weight across the table as the crowd roared their approval when the object ball slipped down the bag.
Buoyed by that brilliance, he made a strong start to the decider and never looked back as a thin clip on the final red to the same left-middle pocket confirmed his spot in the final amid delirious scenes among the home fans.
‘What a shot!’ – Thepchaiya produces brilliant cut to make final
Six Red World Championship
- Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 7-6 Hossein Vafaei
- Tom Ford 4-7 Ding Junhui
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