Rafael Nadal recorded a first win over Novak Djokovic in nearly three years to seal a place in the Madrid Open final.
They probed and passed each other, and at the last gasp, Djokovic worked a break point as Nadal, clearly tight for the first time this match, netted a forehand.
Indeed, the last time Nadal got the best of Djokovic was in the final at Roland Garros three years ago, before losing the subsequent seven meetings.
Nadal awaits the victor of first-time Masters semifinalists Dominic Thiem and Pablo Cuevas.
A win will grant Nadal his 30th Masters title, equalling the record held by his vanquished opponent, Djokovic.
If Nadal wins Madrid, he will win for a third straight week.
"It is a great result", he said. It's just the titles that you have won.
"I knew I'd have to play very well and I thought I did very well in the first set".
The 29-year-old progressed to the semi-finals of the Madrid Open this week but saw his progress halted at the hands of an old foe.
The Madrid crowd roared on their home hero as Djokovic again came upon a strong enough footing to win back-to-back games for the second time in the match, although Nadal would serve the match out at 5-4 up.
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Clay has always produced the best in Nadal, and Saturday's semi-final was no different as he advanced to Sunday's decider in far more comfortable a fashion than just about anyone will have predicted.
"I did try my best", Djokovic said.
Marko, 25, is also a tennis player, having peaked to a career-high ranking of No. 629 in July 2013.
The Serbian then faltered on his own serve when he was broken in the very next game and Nadal consolidated the break to move 4-2 ahead, just two games from victory.
A brilliant Nadal point sealed the first set, ending Djokovic's run of 15 successive sets in matches with the Spaniard.
Djokovic didn't have to play the quarterfinal in Madrid because Kei Nishikori withdrew before the match because of a wrist injury.
With Cristiano Ronaldo and Olympic great Nadia Comaneci watching courtside, Nadal was aggressive from the start, and had 20 winners, including seven off his backhand. Nadal eventually had two set points.
The Spaniard started quickly, climbing all over the Djokovic serve to break in the opening game of the match, and he followed up with another break which he consolidated to lead the first set 4-0 with barely twenty minutes on the clock.
An open era record 50th meeting between Nadal and Djokovic served to highlight the Serb's dramatic dip in form since they last met in Rome nearly exactly a year ago.
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