DING Junhui is just one match away from a record-equaling fifth ranking title this season, after beating Joe Perry 6-4 in the semi-finals of the BetVictor Welsh Open at the Newport Centre.
Ding, who has won four ranking titles this season - including the German Masters last month - is looking to equal the record of five set by Stephen Hendry in the 1990/91 season, and will now face Ronnie O'Sullivan over 17 frames tomorrow.
Victory for China's 26-year-old Ding would give him the 11th ranking title of his career and the £60,000 top prize.
Perry took the opening frame with a fine break of 59 but Ding hit back by winning a scrappy second to level, after Chatteris cueist Perry missed a red to right-centre pocket. Ding followed with a superb 114 clearance to take the lead. Perry had a chance to steal the fourth frame from 56-0 down, but missed a tricky final brown along the baulk cushion and Ding took advantage for 3-1.
Following the interval, Perry came out fighting and capitalised after Ding missed a tricky last red in frame five. The Englishman leveled the scores with a run of 73 but Ding regained the lead with an 88 break for 4-3.
Perry was 44-7 ahead in frame eight but a missed red allowed Ding in to make a run of 55 and steal it. Perry pulled one back with a 69 break, but a fantastic 118 clearance from Ding in frame ten - which included a series of superb pots to keep the break going - completed the victory.
"I don't know what happened with my white ball control - it always causes me trouble," said 2012 Welsh Open winner Ding, who has lost just one ranking event match since June's Wuxi Classic.
"In the last frame the black was on the spot but I had to take the yellow or green because I lost position. I think I need to do better tomorrow.
"I am confident because I have won a lot of matches this season. I don't feel too much pressure when the scoreline is close - I can handle it.
"From the start of the season at the Shanghai Masters I felt more confident. I don't normally play well in China, but since I won in Shanghai I have just kept winning."
Perry, who missed the chance to reach his first ranking final since the 2001 European Open, said: "I played pretty good and was absolutely committed to everything I went for today.
"I will leave knowing that I gave it my absolute all but I just missed a couple. All you can do is give it your absolute all and I did that today.
"I didn't really get a chance after going 1-0 up until he let me in when I was about 50 behind and 2-1 down.
"I fully committed to the brown along the baulk cushion and if that goes in it is 2-2 and I would have been very happy.
"I got back in it at 3-3 but that is when I missed a couple of balls and got punished for it. It happens, he is a super player - you make one too many mistakes and you get punished."
On Ding's clearance in the final frame he said: "It was unbelievable. When I first missed the red I thought 'he has a bit to do here' with the black and pink tied up. But he found a plant to release the black and when that went in, I thought that was it.
"It was quite horrible to watch because he was out of position at times but produced fantastic pot after fantastic pot. It would have been easier if he cleared up effortlessly as usual but it just shows his class - he needed to produce it and he did."