Journeymen Jarkko Nieminen and Julien Benneteau earned themselves a rare ATP title shot at the Sydney International after beating higher ranked semi-final opponents on Friday.
Finland's Nieminen, 30, needed a marathon 26-point tie-breaker before prevailing over Uzbekistan's 67th-ranked Denis Istomin 7-6 (14-12), 6-3 in an hour and 44 minutes to reach his 12th career ATP final on Saturday.
French world number 49 Benneteau required six match points and had to win through a see-sawing 14-minute final game before seeing off Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis 6-4, 6-4 in almost two hours.
Left-hander Nieminen, ranked 77, has only won one title - in Auckland six years ago - and was a beaten Sydney finalist in 2009 against David Nalbandian.
He is bidding to become the first qualifier to win the tournament since South Korea's Lee Hyung-Taik claimed the title nine years ago.
"I really enjoyed that moment being in the finals again now a second time here," Nieminen said.
"It's just great that I start the year like this. I struggled in the beginning of the last year, and this is a real great confidence boost for me."
Benneteau, 30, a semi-finalist here two years ago, will be playing in his sixth final and has yet to win a title.
The Frenchman, who improved his record against Baghdatis to 4-2, has yet to drop a set this week after wins over Andreas Seppi, fourth seed Feliciano Lopez and Alex Bogomolov Jr.
"I've never beat him (Nieminen) on the tour. Each time it was very tough matches, very tight, three sets, long matches," Benneteau said.
"He's a good player. He has some confidence because he's won a lot matches this week. But also he can be a little bit tired.
"Now it depends on me, how I can manage to find a way to win the first title of my career."
Former Sydney winner Baghdatis was disappointed with his performance a few days ahead of the Australian Open, where he was a beaten finalist against Roger Federer six years ago.
"I was a bit tight again. I wasn't so aggressive. I tried but my shots were not heavy enough," 43rd-ranked Baghdatis said.
"He played very smart, very aggressive, and was serving very well. I had my chances. I didn't take them, he did. Basically, that's it."
AFPTags: sport, tennis, sydney-2000, nsw, australia First posted January 13, 2012 19:36:16