Ali Carter will take on Joe Perry in Sunday’s final of the World Open in Yushan for a ranking title success that would be every bit as sweet for both as the £90,000 first prize on offer.
The 37-year-old Carter has of course been plagued by health problems in recent years – taking six months away from the game in 2014 after twice beating cancer.
But Carter, a world championship runner-up on two occasions and into his first big ranking final since February 2013, stands one win away from a first major title since his enforced absence.
There were no fireworks in China yesterday as three-time ranking event winner Carter, without a single break of 50 or more, beat Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 6-1.
But victory on Sunday would see Carter, who also suffers with Crohn’s disease, move back into the elite top 16 of the world rankings.
Essex pro Carter’s last major success came in Berlin at the German Masters three and a half years ago.
However the former world No2 showed signs he was well on the way back to the game’s top table with victory at the Paul Hunter Classic last year.
Carter said: “Today was about using my experience, it wasn’t pretty and there weren’t big breaks, but I did what I had to do to win.
“He is a very dangerous player, I knew that, he likes going for his shots and I didn’t have to push the boat out – just wait for my chances.
“And when they came I took them, it wasn’t dazzling but I didn’t miss many easy ones. I am delighted to get through to the final, and one more match to go.
“I have to take extra care with my health out here – I haven’t drunk any alcohol out here eaten healthily, I really haven’t eaten that much and felt like I needed to do a bit of pudding.
“So I have treated this trip as a bit of a detox really, drunk a lot of water and eaten right – and that has stood me in good stead.
“It is going to a very difficult match in the final but I will go out and enjoy it and see what that brings me.”
Perry’s display was altogether more impressive and should see him start as slight favourite.
Up against close friend and former world champion Neil Robertson, the 41-year-old Perry crushed his mate’s resistance with three centuries and a 91 from 2-2 for a 6-2 win.
In his 26th year on tour and having only won a first ranking title last year, Perry said: “I just played really, really well, it all came together, the balls all broke nicely and I felt calm and relaxed.
“And for once out there on the big stage with all the pressure I just felt like I was back on the practice table. It’s not often that happens, and it is a nice feeling.
“If Ronnie O’Sullivan isn’t in a tournament then Neil in my opinion is the one to beat. And even though we know each other’s games as good friends, that is not always an advantage.
“And that is because I know how good he is, and how he is always capable of a comeback – but that is a really good win for me at this stage of an event, and a big scalp.
“It will be a really tough game against Ali, he is one of the best match-players on the circuit and has been for many years.
“We have played quite a lot over the years, some really big matches. He beat me in the semi-finals of the World Championship which is the one that sticks in the memory.
“I think we will be as hungry as each other for different reasons, desperate for that title, and it will be a really tough contest.
“I always enjoy coming to China, I have won two tour events in the country and had some success on Chinese soil though not yet quite winning a major event.”
As alluded to by Perry, the most memorable match between the two came at the Crucible, a classic semi-final in 2008 won 17-15 by Carter. A repeat, or close to it, would do everyone just fine.