Andy Murray roared into his second Australian Open final but admitted he was given an "unbelievably tough" test by Spaniard David Ferrer.
The Scot dropped the opening set to the man who knocked out an injury-hampered Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals.
But Murray scrapped his way back into the match, saving a second-set set point, to win 4-6 7-6 (7/2) 6-1 7-6 (7/2).
Paying tribute to Ferrer, Murray said: "He's an unbelievable athlete and an unbelievable competitor. He works so hard, he's in great shape.
"I was expecting an unbelievably tough match and I got it.
"It's obviously great I managed to come through but he's such a tough player to play against.
"At the start of the second set I started to go for my shots a bit more and it paid off."
He admitted his slow start was in part due to tension.
"There's going to be nerves at the start of the match and that was definitely the case today," Murray said.
Last year's beaten finalist remarkably had not realised he was facing a set point on his serve in the second set, when trailing 5-4.
"You're probably not going to believe this but I thought it was 4-3," Murray said.
"I didn't know until the umpire called 5-5. That probably helped me."
He recognised it was unusual not to have a close eye on the score.
"It happens occasionally, but not in a match like this," he said.
"I was so focused, I was wrapped up.
"I hope it doesn't happen again."
Murray admitted the tussle had taken a toll on his body.
"It was a pretty physical match," he said.
"My body was feeling it a bit towards the end of the match but I'm going to jump in an ice bath to try to recover properly."
Once he has recovered, Murray, the fifth seed, will prepare for Sunday's final against Serbian Novak Djokovic.
He has lost in two grand slam finals before - the US Open of 2008 and last year's Australian Open - when on both occasions Roger Federer was his conqueror.
Djokovic beat Federer in straight sets in their semi-final yesterday, indicating Murray must be at his best to stand a chance of becoming Britain's first men's grand slam champion since Fred Perry.
"The first slam final I played against Federer I didn't know what was going on," Murray said. "It went so quick.
"Last year was better and I hope this one's going to be better than last year's.
"But it's going to be a tough match. Novak's played a great tournament.
"Experience-wise we're similar. We're good friends and practise a lot together.
"We trained a lot in Perth getting ready for here. We practised four or five times and then practised here a couple of times.
"There won't be any secrets about our games."