Holders East Bengal and Churchill Brothers carved out contrasting wins to enter the final of the 108th IFA Shield football tournament in Kolkata on Sunday.
East Bengal struck once in each half to prevail over Vasco Sports Club, Goa 2-0 while Churchill Brothers scraped past a fighting Tata Football Academy 3-2 in semi-final outings at the Salt Lake Stadium.
Ghanaian Suley Musah emerged the hero in East Bengal's victory as he not only netted the first goal, but also played a key role when Jiten Rai doubled the tally in the dying minutes of the exchange in the flood-lit stadium.
In the first semi-final, Kasif Jamal, Nigerian Yakubu and substitute Ratan Singh found the target for Churchill, while the Jamshedpur-based Academy struck through Bhola Prasad and Debabrata Roy.
East Bengal started off well, establishing early domination and went into the lead in the 17th minute.
A long Dougs D'Silva lob from near the centre line landed near the rival box, and Musah, who played as a medio, headed into the far corner of the net.
East Bengal increased the lead seven minutes from time, when Jiten Rai shot in after Musah lobbed the ball over the heads of the rival defenders.
Churchill, on the other hand, were given a run for their money by the TFA boys, who played their hearts out and restored parity twice after falling behind.
Barely three minutes into the match, Churchill shot into the lead as the crafty Aqueel Ansari essayed a fine pass to an advancing Jamal, who wrongfooted two TFA stoppers and slotted home with a left footer.
But the enterprising boys of the country's premier soccer academy drew level in the 15th minute when Prasad, fed by Naoba Singh, thundered a snap shot, which went in.
The Goans regained the lead in the 28th minute following a penalty. Kanta Singh and TFA custodian Subrata Paul collided while going for the ball, and referee Subrata Sarkar pulled up the latter for an infringement and signalled towards the dreaded spot. Nigerian Yakubu made no mistake in converting the award.
Trailing 1-2 at the breather, TFA regrouped in the second half.
The dangerous Sumit Thapa cut into the Churchill box in the 48th minute and a desperate Denzie Ferrao tripped him. The referee awarded the second penalty of the match.
Debabrata Roy netted the setpiece with a firm right footer to again bring both sides on an even keel.
Nineteen minutes from the final whistle, an unmarked Yakubu entered the box in a one-to-one situation. TFA stopper Paul rushed out, narrowed the angle and dived at the Nigerian's foot. But the ball went to Ratan Singh who volleyed home to propel his side to the title round.