Rafael Nadal outfought fourth seed Marin Cilic on Saturday in a battle of attrition to reach the final of the Shanghai Masters and a potential meeting with Roger Federer, who plays Juan Martín del Potro to decide the second finalist.
The world number one finally saw off the Croatian after saving three set points in the opener on the way to a tense 7-5, 7-6 victory to book his place in Sunday's showpiece and a chance to win one of the few tournaments that still eludes him.
Number two Federer plays Juan Martin del Potro in the other semi-final later Saturday after the Argentine said he was fit despite hurting his wrist in a fall in the quarter-finals.
Cilic had only ever got the better of 16-time Grand Slam winner Nadal once in five previous meetings, but he made him work hard for this latest win.
Nadal outlasts inspired Cilic
Nadal, pursuing a seventh title this season, put Cilic under immediate pressure in the Croat's first two service games.
But the 29-year-old Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, eventually settled, only to squander three set points as Nadal hung on grimly.
In the next game the 31-year-old Nadal capitalised, breaking Cilic on the way to claiming the first set.
With the crowd firmly in his favour, the Spaniard broke Cilic again in the third game of the second set, only for Cilic to break back for 3-3 when Nadal put his simple volley into the net, leading the Spaniard to furiously hammer his racquet on his knee.
They exchanged a further break apiece to race into the tie break, before a grateful Nadal pulled away at the last.