Superstar shuttler Lin Dan dug deep to beat the Japanese Sho Sasaki in the Thomas Cup semi-final in China on Friday, taking the hosts a step closer to winning the key pre-Olympics tournament.
Lin trailed for much of the first game, firing a trademark slam-dunk smash wide on game-point and moving the Wuhan crowd into making a Mexican wave to raise their favourite player's spirits.
Visibly motivating himself on court, "Super" Dan managed to fire himself up and take the match 23-21, 21-17 over the world sixth-ranked Sasaki, to the acclaim of the vociferous home support.
"Today my opponent was very good. But my performance was very good too," said Lin, widely acknowledged as the greatest player of all time and the reigning Olympic champion.
The dogged Sasaki, who is on the up in the rankings, said: "We are very close to the Olympics so I wanted to win this match before the Games."
China went on to win the tie 3-0.
Waiting for them in the final are a dangerous South Korean side, who put on a thrilling show to beat Denmark, for whom it was a last outing at the Thomas Cup for veteran frontman Peter Gade.
The Danish world number five treated his many fans to a tough tussle against Lee Hyun-Il, but the South Korean world number seven won 17-21, 21-14, 21-10 to give the Asian team the momentum in the tie.
"At the start I made many mistakes," said Lee, "but in the middle I played my own game and got my rhythm."
A despondent 35-year-old Gade, who will retire after the London Olympics, knew he had missed an opportunity to notch one more win at the team event.
"I felt I had a chance today but I wasn't able to turn it around to play on my terms. I should have been more aggressive. It's always about balance against Lee. Don't be too aggressive."
Raising the Danish spirits -- and to the delight of the spectators -- Mathias Boe threw his racket into the crowd after winning his first doubles with partner Carsten Mogensen and levelling the tie 1-1.
But South Korea were the stronger force and tightened their grip on the semi-final when Shon Wan-Ho, hot off his stunning India Open final win over Lee Chong Wei, beat Jan O Jorgensen 21-13, 14-21, 21-16.
The doubles pair Lee Yong-Dae and Kim Sa-Rang won their match to clinch the tie 3-1 for South Korea, setting up the Sunday clash against China.
The two countries also play in the final of the Uber Cup, the women's team event, on Saturday.
Lin Dan shrugged off the youthful challenge of the South Koreans: "China will fight like a youngster in the final."
And as he prepared to bow out of the competition, Gade said there were always regrets, "but that doesn't change the memories of the Thomas Cup. I have great memories here".