22-year old Luca Brecel is just one victory away from his first ranking tournament success. However, seven-time ranking event winner and 2005 World champion Shaun Murphy stands in his way when they meet in Tuesday's China Championship final.
World number 27 Brecel has been one of the hottest prospects on the circuit since turning professional at the tender age of 16. However, he has only reached a ranking final once, two years ago at the German Masters, though this week could prove to be his defining moment in snooker.
Li just falls short in entertaining dual
Brecel was pitted against China's Li Hang who was appearing in his first ranking semi-final after a stellar week on home cloth. The pair played out a high-quality encounter as the Belgian raced into a 3-1 lead. Brecel opened the scoring with a break of 82 before three successive 52 breaks, two of which were formulated by Li, ensured scoring was of the highest level.
26-year old Li fought his way back into the contest with back-to-back frames, taking his highest break of the match to 60 in frame six. Brecel responded with a match-high 107, only to be pegged back again and then overtaken by Li who found himself just one win away from a dream victory.
Yet Brecel was not prepared to throw away his opportunity and responded with a tight win in frame ten to take the game to a decider before sealing his place in the final with a break of 75.
Murphy digs deep to edge through
After eight breaks above 50 in the first semi-final, Shaun Murphy's contest against fellow top twelve seed Ali Carter was surprisingly bereft of quality. Four-time ranking event winner Carter took the opening frame before Murphy drew level with the first of only three half-century breaks in the entire contest. The pair exchanged blows in the next two frames before two consecutive successes for Carter, including a 52 break, gave him control with a 4-2 advantage.
Yet that was to be as good as it got for Carter as Murphy went on to dominate the remaining action. A match-high 69 set him up for successive frames before a defining ninth frame with the scores level.
Carter had opportunities to steal a crucial frame but just could not find the combinations required to produce a sufficient break. He eventually lost the frame by twelve points and then fell short in the tenth to lose four consecutive frames and his chance of a third ranking event success in China.