Ronnie O’Sullivan will face Ali Carter when he attempts to claim a record-extending eighth Masters title on Sunday at Alexandra Palace.
O’Sullivan beat 2015 champion Shaun Murphy 6-2 to reach the final of the prestigious tournament for a 14th time.
In Saturday’s other semi-final, Carter compiled three successive century breaks as he defeated Mark Allen 6-3.
Carter also advanced to the showpiece match on his last appearance at the invitational event in 2020.
His meeting with 40-time ranking event winner O’Sullivan will be a repeat of their 2008 and 2012 world finals, which were both won by ‘The Rocket’.
However, a more recent encounter at the Crucible, won by Carter, featured the players clashing in a bitter exchange. – in which O’Sullivan barged into his opponent’s shoulder.
O’Sullivan took three of the first four frames against Murphy, who made a superb 131 break to gain a foothold in the match.
While another Murphy century brought him within a frame, O’Sullivan, 48, then went through the gears with runs of 90, 71 and 62 to seal his victory and set his sights on the £250,000 top prize after a five-year absence from the showpiece match.
“At the start there were a few mistakes but I cleaned it up a little bit – and I need to do that these days, because I can’t pot as well as these guys but I can make breaks among the balls and make up for it that way,” O’Sullivan told BBC Sport.
“I don’t feel that old. I feel young in my mind. I feel a lot younger round the table when I play these younger players. They look old and their brains are quite slow. I still feel my brain is pretty quick round the snooker table, which is enough.
“They need to get their acts together because I am going blind, have got a dodgy arm and bad knees and they still can’t beat me.”
Already the tournament’s youngest winner almost 29 years ago, O’Sullivan could now become its oldest too, eclipsing Stuart Bingham, who won his only Masters title, aged 43, in 2020.
O’Sullivan heads towards another milestone
If O’Sullivan were to add a 23rd Triple Crown title to his collection, he would also become the oldest winner of all three of snooker’s most prestigious events.
Another O’Sullivan success would also hand him the opportunity to emulate Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Mark Williams, who are the only players to have won all three Triple Crown events in the same season.
And on this evidence, it would be hard to back against him regardless of whether he is at his best or not, with his aura also seemingly placing pressure on his opponents.
While O’Sullivan dominated the concluding stages of the match, Murphy had several good opportunities earlier on.
But he faltered on the green in the opener – in what would have been a stunning counter clearance – missed a black off its spot when among the balls in the second frame and played a loose safety shot in the fourth to hand his opponent a two-frame advantage at the mid-session interval.
“He was just too good – simple as that,” Murphy said.
“I missed a couple of shots here and there but it felt like I played better in that match than in the previous two. I just thought Ronnie was superb and if he plays like that, you may as well give him the trophy now.
“I am disappointed to lose but I tried my best and gave everything and it wasn’t to be.”
Carter closes in on maiden Triple Crown title
World number 10 Carter is yet to win a Triple Crown event but says he will “relishing the challenge” of Sunday’s final against O’Sullivan.
While he made a sluggish start against Allen in a match that was twice stopped briefly because of medical emergencies in the crowd, he quickly found his groove with breaks of 71, 100, 101 and 105 to establish a commanding 4-1 lead.
And while Allen rallied with a century of his own on his way to getting back to 4-3, Carter held his nerve and showed his battling qualities to take the next and win a hard-fought ninth frame.
“I really got it going in the middle there and felt really good and Mark showed what a great player he is with a good ton,” Carter said.
“I held it together well and I am delighted to have a crack at ‘The Rocket’ tomorrow. I am looking forward to it and I am relishing the challenge.
“He has been a big part in everyone’s career. He is the greatest of all time and I have the ultimate respect for him as a snooker player but what a great challenge to be playing him here.”