The world’s top two players, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, will contest the Shanghai Masters final after both secured hard-fought wins on Saturday.
Top seed Nadal, seeking a seventh title of 2017, beat Croat Marin Cilic 7-5 7-6 (7-3) in two hours, 11 minutes.
Federer showed great resolve to thwart Argentine Juan Martin del Potro 3-6 6-3 6-3 in just under two hours.
It will be the elite pair’s fourth meeting of the year and the 24th time they have faced each other in a final.
Wimbledon champion Federer beat Nadal to win the Australian Open in January and has won the last four matches between the two legendary players, who have 35 Grand Slams between them.
Cilic, who will rise to a career-best fourth in the world rankings, created three set points in the first set but Nadal took it in 67 minutes.
The Croat’s first two service games comprised 30 points, while Nadal conceded only three points in his first four games on serve.
But Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion and beaten finalist at Wimbledon this year, gradually imposed himself on proceedings and a crunching forehand down the line from the back of the court earned two break points.
He was unable to take those as Nadal demonstrated his powers of resolve and the Croat, having saved six break points, eventually conceded the only break of the set.
US Open champion Nadal broke in the third game of the second set after Cilic netted two volleys but then lost his own serve as his drop volley also went into the net.
Cilic saved three break points in game nine but then a stunning whipped Nadal forehand down the line on the run created a break that he duly seized.
Cilic was not finished, however, and after saving a match point he dispatched more powerful shots from the baseline to break again.
Nadal, bidding to win the Shanghai title for the first time, calmly served out to force a tie-break and the Spaniard completed his fifth victory in six matches against Cilic, his 16th consecutive victory in all tournaments.
“The way doesn’t matter,” said Nadal, 31, with a smile. “We are at the highest level of our sport so nobody wins easy.”
With rain falling, the roof was closed for the second semi-final, in which Del Potro was able to participate after a test on the wrist he injured during victory over Viktor Troicki in the previous round.
Del Potro saved a break point in the third game and then claimed the decisive break in the opening set, clinching it in 38 minutes with his eighth ace.
Federer’s patience was rewarded in the next, however, as he finally secured a break with his fifth chance of the fifth game.
That game took 14 minutes but Federer won the next to love in barely 90 seconds and the 36-year-old dropped only three points on serve in a set lasting 45 minutes.
Del Potro had persistent exchanges with the umpire about the exuberant crowd, the majority of which were emphatically in favour of the Swiss maestro, which eventually resulted in a request from the official for quiet on serve.
Federer claimed a key early break in the decider and, as Del Potro began to show signs of fatigue, he meticulously maintained his advantage to complete a 17th win in 23 matches against the Argentine.
The 19-time Grand Slam champion now turns his attentions to Nadal, who holds a 23-14 record over him.