Joe Perry fell just short of reaching the second major final of his career as the Cambridgeshire cueman lost 9-8 to Hong Kong's Marco Fu at the International Championship in China.
Despite leading the semi-final 5-3 at the interval, Perry was pegged back and overtaken by Fu before forcing a deciding frame.
With £30,000 going to losing semi-finalists, but £65,000 on offer to the runner-up and £125,000 to the champion, a nail-biter unfolded with Fu just edging it as midnight approached after cutting in a tough brown to leave Perry requiring snookers.
"It was a very tight match," said the 35-year-old Fu. "Neither of us were at our
best and we dragged each other down. I just feel very fortunate that I'm in the final.
"Towards the end I couldn't control my arms because I was so tired."
Fu added on worldsnooker.com: "I'm really looking forward to the final. I hope I can play 10 times better than today otherwise I won't stand a chance."
Perry, 39, has been a professional since 1991 but can point to only one previous final appearance, when he was well beaten by Stephen Hendry at the 2001 European Open in Malta.
He was a World Championship semi-finalist in 2008, losing to Ali Carter, and looked to have Fu's measure early on in their Chengdu battle.
Breaks of 83 and 72 gave him the interval advantage, but Hong Kong potter Fu, who has won the Australian Open title already this season, improved in the evening and edged ahead for the first time with a run to 88 in the 11th frame.
Perry responded with the only century of the match, 103, and he soon led again, but it went to the decider and Fu prevailed to set up a clash with Chinese crowd favourite Ding Junhui or Scotland's Graeme Dott on Sunday, when he will play for the biggest cash prize of his career.
Ding and Dott contest their two-session semi-final on Saturday, with the former looking to become the first player since Hendry in 1993 to win three successive major ranking titles.
Ding, 26, beat Xiao Guodong to land the Shanghai Masters in September, and Aditya Mehta to win October's Indian Open.