Egyptian PSA World Tour veterans Amr Shabana and Karim Darwish held off the challenges of younger compatriots in the Motor City Open presented by The Suburban Collection to set up a mouth-watering final of the PSA International 70 event at Birmingham Athletic Club in Bloomfield Hills, Detroit, USA, between two former world number ones.
In the first semi, 33-year-old Shabana got off to a quick 7-2 start as Mohamed El Shorbagy, the 22-year-old top seed, struggled to find his shot. But in the blink of an eye, the higher-ranked youngster stormed back to take a 9-7 lead.
"When you think you're cruising, that's when you lose it," world No8 Shabana (pictured above with El Shorbagy) said afterwards about his blown lead. The number four seed then staved off two game-balls and rescued a 13-11 first game win.
"If I would've lost that game, it would've been devastating mentally," Shabana continued.
El Shorbagy, the world No5, made several unforced errors to drop the second game 11-5 - but reduced the deficit by taking game three as his shots finally began to find their mark.
Shabana reclaimed the upper hand in the fourth, racing to a 6-1 lead and holding the advantage before closing out the match 13-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-7 after 65 minutes.
"Every time we play, regardless of the score, it's always a tip-toe game," said Shabana, who extended his career head-to-head over El Shorbagy to 9/0. "Right now, I might have a slight advantage but Mohamed is still young and he's going to catch up sooner or later."
El Shorbagy later told his followers on Twitter: "Shabana was too good. A lot to learn from this match. Now I got a good break which I really need before playing Kuwait in March."
Making his first return to the Motor City Open after mowing down the competition in 2010, 31-year-old Darwish advanced to his second MCO final after ousting 24-year-old Omar Mosaad in a physical encounter.
Second seed Darwish benefited after a pair of crucial mistakes by his larger opponent in the first game. With game-ball at 12-11, third seed Mosaad hit back-to-back shots into the bottom of the tin before Darwish hit a forehand nick shot winner to seal it.
Underdog Mosaad, ranked nine in the world, bounced back in the next two games to take a 2/1 lead. Darwish stuck to his game plan, however, relentlessly pounding balls into the back corners and softly flicking balls into the front corners to draw level.
Darwish, the world No6, cruised in the decider as fatigue became a factor and his opponent made five unforced errors to hand the match to Darwish 14-12, 8-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-5 after 97 minutes.
"It's always a physical match against Omar," said Darwish afterwards. "He's a big guy and it's hard to pass him because he takes the ball early. But I tried to pass as much as I can and I think the last two games he lost a little bit of energy."
Shabana is celebrating his 45th PSA Tour final appearance, and Darwish his 40th - with six previous finals shared. The Detroit encounter will mark the pair's 21st Tour clash over the past 12 years, with Shabana boasting a 12-8 career lead.
The duo most recently met in the final of the 2010 Qatar Classic with Darwish prevailing 8-11, 11-2, 11-7, 11-6.
"Shabana is a great player. I think people will enjoy tomorrow," Darwish added.