Lin Dan has progressed to the final even though the two-time Olympic champion hardly played competitively over the past year and entered on a wild card since he was ranked a low 100th before the World Badminton Championships. Lee Chong Wei too struggled through after losing first game to Du Pengyu.
World number one Lee Chong Wei will face Chinese superstar Lin Dan in the World Championships final Sunday that fans were hoping for, after a tense three-game victory in Guangzhou.
The Malaysian lost the first game of his semi-final Saturday against Du Pengyu in the southern Chinese city, sending shots out and into the net in a tentative start.
He clawed his way back from an 11-5 deficit but China's Du, ranked third, found answers to Lee's returns and raised the roof of the Tianhe gymnasium when he took the first 22-20.
Lee, who has never won a world title, came out fighting in the second, leaping around the court, combining powerful smashes and delicate drop shots, with Du struggling to keep up.
While Du fought hard in the third, Lee went on to take it 21-15 setting up a showdown with arch rival Lin, who beat him at the previous World Championships and in the last two Olympic finals.
"I was not nervous, the problem was that Du Pengyu had prepared very well for the match, especially for the first game. Whatever I gave the shot, he could always return it," said 30-year-old Lee, who will be the first Malaysian to take a world title if he wins on Sunday.
Of his clash with Lin he said his baby son Kingston, who was born in April, would be his inspiration.
"I hope my son will bring me luck," he said.
Lin, 29, widely regarded as badminton's best ever player, took on seventh seed Nguyen Tien Minh of Vietnam in his semi-final.
Back on court after almost a year on the sidelines to spend time with his family, Lin slipped behind in the first game after misjudging Nguyen's early returns and was error-prone throughout the match.
But as it progressed he injected pace with jump smashes and unreachable shots down the line, taking a 21-17, 21-15 victory.
"I haven't really played any world level matches over the past year and it's unbelievable that I've got into the finals," Lin said.
The women's singles will see top seed Li Xuerui of China take on Thai 18-year-old Ratchanok Intanon, who outplayed fellow teen P.V. Sindhu in their semi-final.
Li strolled to a 21-5, 21-11 win against Bae Yeon-Ju of Korea while India's Sindhu was unable to cope with Ratchanok's power and precision, losing 10-21, 13-21.
"If I win tomorrow it will make history for Thailand because we have only ever reached the semi-finals," Ratchanok said.
China's hopes of a third straight clean sweep of the World Championships were dashed after stalwarts Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng lost 21-19, 21-17 to Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia in the men's doubles semi-final.
The Indonesians will meet Mathias Boe and Carsten Morgensen of Denmark after they beat Koreans Kim Ki-Jung and Kim Sa-Rang in a ferocious 21-23, 21-18, 21-18 clash.
Eom Hye-Won and Jang Ye-Na of Korea will take on Chinese number ones Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang for the women's doubles title.
Top seeds Xu Chen and Ma Jin of China will face Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir in the mixed doubles final after the Indonesians beat Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei, also of China.
Captivating duo Xu and Ma earned the loudest cheers of the night for their lightning reactions in acrobatic rallies against Eom Hye-Won and Shin Baek Choel, who they defeated 21-15, 21-17.