Ali Carter came back from the brink of retirement to take his place in today's World Championship showpiece after he beat Stephen Maguire 17-12 in the semi-final.
Carter was suffering so badly with Crohn's disease, the bowel condition he was diagnosed with nine years ago, that he considered walking away from the tour.
Today he will face Ronnie O'Sullivan, who beat Matthew Stevens 17-10 to reach his fourth final here – but his first in since 2008, when he faced Ali Carter and won a third title. Carter has never been crowned world champion, and has never defeated O'Sullivan in 11 attempts.
This World Championship would have been his last tournament but instead it could be the making of Carter. He admitted reaching the final had surpassed his expectations. "I'm as surprised as you are," he said. "I'm delighted to be through. The job's not done yet, though. I'm not just happy to just be in the final, so we'll see what happens."
Maguire admitted he had underestimated Carter, saying: "I think in the first session I didn't give him enough respect." Carter saw that from the early stages of the exchange on Thursday. "Stephen tried to stamp his authority and I think he thought he was going to beat me quite easily, the way he started the match," he said. "I wasn't having any of it. I was up for it. I played some really solid stuff, there weren't any fireworks, and I got the job done."
The 32-year-old resumed with a 14-10 lead and Maguire failed to produce the form that saw him send Stephen Hendry into retirement after a 13-2 victory in the quarter-finals. When he lost a dramatic opening frame yesterday his hopes effectively were over. Carter, with a 21-point lead, was put in a clever snooker behind the black, which was by the side rail near the yellow spot.
Carter tried six times to strike the final red and failed, and on the last occasion referee Leo Scullion elected not to call a miss. Carter had been a whisker away from hitting the ball, so Maguire had to play from where the white finished. The double was on but the red wriggled out of the jaws of the pocket. Carter produced an outstanding pot to the far left corner and soon took the frame.
Maguire's head dropped and he lost the next frame, Carter having fluked a red in the process. The Scot then missed a straight red to the centre pocket in the next frame, but it did not cost him, and he took the frame and won the next, too. But when they returned from the mid-session interval, Maguire potted a long red but followed it into the pocket with the cue ball. Carter rifled in a break of 70, whereupon Maguire offered his hand.
Resuming his semi-final against O'Sullivan 15-9 behind, Stevens made a century break to keep his hopes alive, but O'Sullivan hit back with a superb 130 and took the next frame in style to reach the best-of-35 final.
"I've tried to come here and play expressive snooker and be aggressive to show the fans that I can be good in spells," said O'Sullivan. "I've learnt to control my emotions and not letting it all out. It's not always the most comfortable place to be and it's about limiting the damage to yourself.
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