Joe Perry produced an incredible comeback to win four consecutive frames and prevent Barry Hawkins from setting up a repeat of the 2016 Masters Final against Ronnie O'Sullivan. The reigning Champion produced a gritty performance to defeat Marco Fu 6-4 as he looks to win a record seventh Masters crown.
New tip proves key for O'Sullivan
O'Sullivan was eventually clinical against Fu but for a short period it looked as if he could fall short against the Scottish Open Champion. Everything that could go wrong did for the seasoned campaigner as an early miss on the blue afforded Fu an opening to score 89 in the first frame. O'Sullivan edged the second but it became apparent that he had split the tip of his cue during a frame where he punched the table in frustration after missing a pot, before Fu composed a break of 110 to go 2-1 ahead. It was at that point that the referee agreed to an early interval so O'Sullivan could change the tip.
For many a change of tip comes with a period of finding a feel for the cue. Though O'Sullivan is a snooker phenomenon and came straight out with a terrific contribution of 95. That moment sparked a real control battle as the pair exchanged high-scoring breaks, with Fu compiling a tournament-high 141 to restore his advantage. O'Sullivan responded with a 122, before an 83 from Hong Kong's number one left Fu 4-3 ahead and edging closer to a first Masters final for six years.
The turning point in the match came in frame eight. After a break of 55 for O'Sullivan broke down, the table had opened up for Fu to take advantage. Though the number 14 seed missed with the rest, allowing the 28-time ranking tournament winner to come back to the table with a 63. Fu rarely saw the balls again after that mistake, with O'Sullivan sealing the final two frames with breaks of 82 and 69 as Fu managed just one more point. The 6-4 victory means that O'Sullivan will now take part in his 43rd ranking event final on Sunday.
Hawkins takes the early advantage as Perry struggles to find his range
O'Sullivan's opponent will be Perry as he produced a comeback to remember against last year's runner-up. Hawkins made 51 in the opening frame but Perry's renowned table craft came to the fore as he was able to edge the first registration on the scoreboard. However the 2016 finalist continued to score high as he won two of the next three frames from breaks of 77 and 58, with Perry stealing a second sandwiched in between.
A tight fifth frame ensued after the interval, with both players missing long pots midway through the frame. Perry's pot success rate was a lot lower than Hawkins' and he was made to pay as he left the table open and Hawkins formulated another half century. A scrappy encounter played out in the sixth with both players missing pots and safety shots. After a period of sparring it was eventually Perry's mistake that ultimately put him two frames behind at 4-2.
A tactical battle took place again in the seventh as both players saw compilations break down in the 40's, but Hawkins once again came out on top. Another break then disintegrated for Perry and left the number 11 seed with an opening to win the game, but a break of 58 was not enough as Perry kept in the contest by edging the frame after a snooker and clearing break left him still with a chance. Pundits, fans and Perry alike had all written him off.
Perry completes an incredible return
That remarkable recovery changed the whole body language of Perry as he finally made his first half century break of the match. The contribution was halted again but he came back to the table to go within one frame after another tactical battle. The number nine seed then followed that with an excellent 62 to force a final-frame decider from nowhere.
Hawkins seemed to have cleared his head to open a lead of 50, but a miss at a tight pot allowed Perry a chance to earn a final berth. Yet an exceptional 62 in the circumstances was enough to see Perry over the line as he edged his way into his first major snooker final after 26 years of trying.