Beijing - Rafael Nadal was forced into a third set before the world No 1 piled the pressure on Grigor Dimitrov to reach the final of the China Open on Saturday.
The 31-year-old Spaniard, enjoying a late-career flourish and chasing a sixth title this season, beat off the Bulgarian third seed 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in their semi-final on Beijing's outside hard courts.
Nadal, good friends with Dimitrov, will face German prodigy Alexander Zverev or temperamental Australian Nick Kyrgios in Sunday's final.
Dimitrov battled back from a set down to take it to a deciding third set.
But with the crowd behind him and Dimitrov visibly tiring, the 16-time Grand Slam champion Nadal stepped up a gear to ram home his superiority.
Results from the ATP Tour's China Open in Beijing on Saturday (x denotes seed):
Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) bt Grigor Dimitrov (BUL x3) 6-3, 4-6, 6-1