David Ferrer battled back from a set down for the third consecutive match to beat Feliciano Lopez 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-3 in an all-Spanish semi-final clash at the Shanghai Masters on Saturday.
Ferrer looked to dictate from early on at the Qi Zhong stadium, with the match developing into a fascinating duel between the third seed's powerful forehand and left-handed Lopez's backhand.
Neither player could force a break in a gripping opening set. Ferrer took control of the tie-break at 4-1 but he could only manage one more point as Lopez drew first blood, Ferrer smashing a ball into the crowd in anger.
The determined Ferrer stayed on the offensive, breaking in the third game of the second set and again in the ninth game to level the match.
A tight deciding set stayed on serve until a wild Lopez forehand gave Ferrer a crucial single break in the eighth game, allowing him to serve out for the win.
Ferrer, who came into the match with a 1-6 losing record in hard court head-to-heads against 28th-ranked Lopez, said he had refocused after losing the opening set.
"When I lost the first set, I tried to forget the tiebreak and I tried to focus again. I played better in the second and the third. I served better," said the 29-year-old, who is ranked number five in the world.
"Finally in the third set he did three double faults in important moments and I took my chance.
"I've never won a Masters 1000, and it is very important for me, for my career, for my tennis career."
In his previous two matches the Spaniard saved three match points to beat Juan Carlos Ferrero and edged Andy Roddick in a third-set tie-break.
Ferrer's run in Shanghai has earned him the fifth spot at next month's ATP World Tour Finals in London.
Top seed Andy Murray takes on unseeded Kei Nishikori of Japan in the second semi-final, searching for his third straight title in Asia after wins in Thailand and Japan.
The Scot has won 13 matches in succession since his US Open semi-final defeat to Rafael Nadal.