Novak Djokovic was delighted to survive a three-hour slog and overcome a cut foot to book his spot in a third-straight Internazionali d'Italia final after an epic semi-final clash with Kei Nishikori.
The Japanese star pushed the world number one all the way, but Djokovic's class shone through once again as he prevailed 2-6 6-4 7-6 (7-5), setting up yet another final against world number two Andy Murray.
Djokovic is a two-time defending champion and will be chasing his fifth overall win at the tournament.
But Djokovic admitted he was not always sure of his participation in the final after Nishikori opened the contest with a first-set blitz after the Serbian required a medical timeout for a cut to his ankle.
"From the beginning, he was showing that he knew what his game plan is and he came out on the court with intent, hitting the ball along lines, cross-courts, both sides, being aggressive on the return. It was a flawless first set," Djokovic said post-match.
"And then I knew that I'm going to have a little opening where I'm supposed to step in and try to use that, which I did."
In a game of such fine margins, it was Djokovic who found the extra gear to post the win - albeit with just one more point than his opponent.
"One point [was the difference]," Djokovic said. "Today it was 112 to 111 points won. So one point. At this level, this particular match is a great example of how it can be decided, in clutch moments and very few shots.
"Sometimes the luck can go your way, sometimes not. But the only thing you can do is influence your own capabilities on the court and your own focus and things that you can do best."
The defeated Nishikori admitted he was disappointed not to make the most of his impressive start.
"I'm really disappointed," world number six Nishikori said. "I was playing really good tennis in the first set. I was playing aggressive. I think I stopped doing that in second set. Also, he started playing better.
"In the third, I think I could have been a little better and he was giving me a lot of pressure and I wasn't making many first serves. So that was costing me a lot of points.
"In the tie-break I made too many unforced errors and three in a row from three-all. That was the biggest mistake today."