Masters 2020: Ali Carter will face Stuart Bingham in final
Ali Carter made the most of his fortunate entrance into the Masters by reaching Sunday's final where he will face fellow Englishman Stuart Bingham.
Carter only secured his spot in the invitational tournament at Alexandra Palace after seven-time winner Ronnie O'Sullivan decided not to take part.
He defeated 2015 winner Shaun Murphy 6-3, while Bingham emerged victorious 6-2 against debutant David Gilbert.
The showpiece guarantees a new name on the trophy.
The winner will claim a record £250,000 in prize money.
The World Snooker Tour have jazzed up this event to give it a more prestigious feel with corporate hospitality boxes, exclusive sofa seating and players making their way to the table via the top of the arena with loud entrance music.
The 2,000-strong crowd lapped up the occasion with a deafening ovation for both players, who waved their arms up and down for them to increase the noise even further.
World number 14 Bingham was a shock winner of the sport's biggest prize at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre five years ago and having seen defending champion Judd Trump, as well as former winners Mark Selby, Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson all make early exits, he now has a chance to add a second Triple Crown event triumph.
"I was a bit disappointed in my own play, Dave gave me chances in the first three frames and I just took them," Bingham told BBC Sport.
Bingham and Carter, who are both from Essex, faced each other at junior level.
"It should be a good match," said Bingham. "We used to play in the junior tournament in the Essex county and now we are playing in a major final.
"It would mean everything to lift the trophy - the history of the game and seeing the names on the list, it would be fantastic to be among them."
Gilbert, who reached the last four of the World Championship last season, made a very nervy start which proved costly, missing numerous straightforward pots allowing Bingham to make breaks of 94 and 71 to open up a 3-0.
Although Gilbert knocked in a superb 131 clearance, six-time ranking event winner Bingham pulled away once more - including a 75 break - to go 5-2 ahead, wrapping a comprehensive victory with a knock of 63.
"It might have looked like I was nervous as I butchered a few chances in the first few frames, but I felt fantastic," said Gilbert.
"What an atmosphere - I love it, even when I was playing poorly."
I've been to hell and back - Carter
The prestigious Masters sees the top 16 players competing but world number three O'Sullivan said his place should go to someone who will "give 100%".
Ironically, that man turned out to be world number 17 Carter, who O'Sullivan defeated in the 2008 and 2012 World Championship finals, and someone he who does not see eye-to-eye with.
The pair clashed at the 2018 World Championship when O'Sullivan barged into his opponent during a second-round match, but Carter has benefitted from his withdrawal by collecting at least £100,000 in prize money and having the chance to become the first player outside the top 16 to win the tournament.
Asked how sweet it would be to win the title having replaced O'Sullivan, Carter replied: "It would be pretty sweet. I have lost twice in the final at Sheffield to Ronnie so maybe the writing is on the wall.
"I have done a couple of interviews in the Eurosport studio [where O'Sullivan is working as a pundit] and I said, 'Thanks Ron', to him."
Should he go all the way, Carter would write another chapter in a remarkable story in which he recovered from testicular cancer in 2013, lung cancer two years later and also being diagnosed with Crohn's disease.
"I now think it's mine to lose rather than just being happy to be here, that's my competitive edge," said Carter.
"It's been a tough few years but I'm still here and still fighting.
"I've been to hell and back and it's special to be in the final but the job is not done yet."
Carter, nicknamed The Captain for his interest in flying and holding a pilot's licence, took a 32-minute opening frame and made a fluent 91 on his way to a 3-1 lead at the mid-session interval.
Although Murphy made two centuries, Carter punished him for breaking down on 56 by counter-attacking with a 70 clearance to go 4-2 in front.
Carter missed a crucial brown off the spot to allow Murphy to snatch the next, but he responded by going one from victory, helped by an outrageous fluked red, sealing victory with a coolly composed 97 break.
"The way he finished that match off was quite special, it's not easy out there," said Murphy.
"It was very classily done and I wish him the best in the final."
Six-time world champion Steve Davis on BBC Two:
Carter is borderline top 16 and only here because Ronnie O'Sullivan pulled out. He is a quality player and has got the ability to be in the top 16 but it is tough at the top. That is the way it pans out. I remember when I won this tournament in 1997 that I had flu the previous week, had no expectations whatsoever. I just went out, played and enjoyed it and perhaps that is how Carter has done it.
1997 world champion Ken Doherty:
It could be destiny for Carter. He has come in as a wildcard. What a wonderful story it would be. No-one deserves it better than him for what he has been through, how he had battled and comeback. He is still battling and trying to improve. He is a big-time player, he loves playing at the Crucible and in the big matches. He would be world champion for it not have been for O'Sullivan who was in flying form.