Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer served up another classic in the 24th chapter of their great rivalry on Saturday, Nadal battling back from a set down to win 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 and secure a place in the Madrid Masters final.
The Spanish world number one, who replaced Federer at the top of the rankings, made the most of his opponent's lack of consistency to set up a meeting in Sunday's final against second seed Novak Djokovic, who beat Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
While the match under the closed roof of a packed Magic Box arena lacked the spine-tingling drama of previous showdowns, some of the shot-making, incuding one incredible exchange in the final game, drew gasps of delight from the 12,500 spectators.
"We know each other very, very well and I think we are sometimes thinking more about what to do to bother the other player rather than playing our best," Nadal, who took his win-loss record against Federer to 16-8, told a news conference.
"Here I think Roger played great tennis for some moments but at others he made more mistakes than usual.
"But it's always a special match and it's a pleasure playing against him, it's always an honour," he added.
The heavyweight pair, who own 26 Grand Slam singles titles between them, had met in the last two Madrid finals, with Federer winning in 2009 and Nadal gaining revenge last year.
After a minute's silence for Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros, who died earlier on Saturday, Nadal seized the initiative and got the crowd behind him when he broke the Federer serve in the opening game.
The Swiss littered his play with unforced errors but began to find his form in a commanding service game to stay in the hunt at 3-4 and then claimed a break of his own to draw level.
After saving three break points in the 11th game to take a 6-5 lead he went on the attack and a searing forehand winner down the line with Nadal off balance gave him a one-set lead.
Federer was broken straight away at the start of the second set and lost his cool with the chair umpire on the decisive point when he thought a Nadal shot called good was wide.
"You think he (the line judge) has a clue?" a clearly angry Federer asked and continued his complaints while the players changed ends.
With Oscar-winning Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar and Real Madrid defender Ricardo Carvalho among those watching on, Nadal stormed into a 4-0 lead and another break in the seventh game took the match to a deciding set.
Nadal's coach and uncle Toni looked anxious in the family box as his charge saved a break point that would have given Federer a 2-1 lead before he chased down a drop shot and dinked a brilliant angled winner on the way to moving 3-1 ahead.
It seemed there might be a late twist when Federer had a chance to break back with Nadal serving for the match at 5-3 but he missed his return and the top seed converted his first match point for a memorable comeback win.
Federer was measured about the disputed line call when he spoke at his post-match news conference.
"If it goes my way it's obviously huge, if it goes his way it's huge," the 29-year-old said.
"Look, at the end of the day I don't know how it was. I don't care anymore, it's in the past.
"Yesterday I got lucky I guess at 15-40 against Robin (Soderling) when I got a good call and today I didn't so it's the way it goes sometimes.
"I thought Rafa played well and me too at times so it was a good match," he added.
Nadal is bidding for a third claycourt title in a month after he won back-to-back at the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open in April.
The 24-year-old Mallorcan's win on Saturday was his 37th consecutive victory on the red dirt since falling to Swede Robin Soderling in the fourth round of the 2009 French Open.