Chennai Super Kings made the most of playing at home as they outclassed Gujarat Titans by 15 runs to storm into their 10th IPL final -- the most by any team in the T20 league.
It also ended CSK's losing run against Titans, having lost all their three previous matches against Hardik Pandya's team.
What was expected to be a battle royale between the two top teams in the league stages turned into the battle of attrition on a sluggish pitch which got progressively difficult for batting against spin.
In the end, the Master prevailed over the Apprentice as Mahendra Singh Dhoni's shrewd captaincy proved a crucial factor in CSK's victory in the Qualifier 1 match.
Gujarat had the momentum going into the virtual semi-final match going by their form in the league stage, while winning the toss proved to be an added advantage.
But four-time champions CSK are the team for the big games. Mohammed Shami, the highest wicket-taker in IPL 2023, got the ball to swing early as he bowled a couple of quiet overs, Young Darshan Nalkande's lapse cost Titans dearly as he had Gaikwad caught at midwicket for 2 in the second over, but he had overstepped the line for a no ball.
That no-ball proved to be quite decisive in terms of shifting the momentum as Gaikwad smacked the free hit delivery for a six over long-on and got two boundaries in the space of four balls to get CSK going after a watchful start.
Gaikwad's aggressive start took CSK to 49 for no loss in six overs even as Devon Conway struggled with his timing at the other end.
The two openers combined in another fifty run stand for the opening wicket -- their ninth overall -- the second most for CSK in IPL.
>Gaikwad slashed pacer Mohit Sharma over point for a four to race to his half-century from 36 balls -- his second fifty in a row and his fourth of IPL 2023. It also continued his rampaging form against Gujarat Titans -- against whom he has been unstoppable with scores of 73, 53 and 92 in the three matches that they have played.
With Conway struggling to find the boundaries, Gaikwad perished in the search for quick runs as he misuced the pull shot off Mohit straight to long-on. However, Gaikwad had played his part with a fine 60 from 44 balls, in his 87-run stand for the opening wicket from 63 balls.
CSK stumbled in the middle overs as they lost four wickets for 52 runs in seven overs between the 11th and 17th over before they staged a late recovery courtesy of useful cameos from Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja and Moeen Ali as they combined to add 56 quick runs.
Jadeja played his part with the bat, with an unbeaten 22 from 16 balls, which helped CSK score 35 from the last three overs, to take their total to 172/7.
Titans pacer Mohit Sharma, who played a few seasons for CSK, was quite accurate with his prediction of the pitch at the halfway mark.
'The ball is sticking onto the surface, there was a bit of moisture early on which made the ball stop. This is a good score on this surface and we will have to bat really well to chase it down. The pitch is slightly sticky, so we need to concentrate on ones and twos. There is no dew at all,' Mohit said at the break.
With no dew around, CSK's spinners came into their own on the sluggish Chennai pitch.
Shubman Gill was the one big threat for CSK's hopes and their pacers bowled exceedingly well to ensure he didn't get off to a start in the Powerplay.
With Wriddhiman Saha and Hardik Pandya falling early, Titans struggled to 41/2 in six overs in the Powerplay with Gill on 20 from 17 balls.
Jadeja sent out an early warning sign to the Titans' batters as he got one delivery to grip and turn miles and even the in-form Gill was forced to bail out of the intended pull shot.
He was hit for a four off the first ball of his spell but he in the company of Maheesh Theekshana kept the Titans batters on a tight leash.
The pressure got the better of Dasun Shanaka who made an unsuccessful attempt to reverse sweep Jadeja and was caught at short third man for 17.
The left-arm spinner then produced another superb delivery to bowl David Miller (4) to leave Titans in a mess as he picked up two wickets for six runs in his last two overs.
Overall, Jadeja's impressive figures read 2/18 in four overs, including 12 dot balls, which Dhoni believes was instrumental in the changing the course of the game.
Matheesha Pathirana played his role to perfection with a couple of wickets in the death, as IPL chase masters Titans suffered only their fourth defeat in 18 games in a run chase.