Snooker: Ding Junhui faces Mark Selby in World Championship final

LONDON (AFP) - China's Ding Junhui will face Mark Selby in the World Championship final on Sunday when he bids to become the first Asian player to win snooker's most prestigious title.

The 29-year-old Ding reached his first World Championship final in record style, with a break of 123 completing a decisive 17-11 victory over experienced Scottish cueman Alan McManus at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre in northern England on Saturday.

Later in the day, 2014 world champion Selby, the world No. 1, prevented an all-Asian final when he defeated Hong Kong's Marco Fu 17-15 as the Englishman booked a third appearance in snooker's showpiece match.

Ding's seventh century break of the semi-final saw him surpass the previous record of most centuries in a Crucible match (six) held jointly by Selby and Ronnie O'Sullivan.

His heavy scoring against McManus also included century breaks of 100, 131, 100, 128, 138 and 113, which all came amid contributions of 84, 62, 90, 97, 80 and 60.

"I feel peaceful at the moment, just like normal. I want to be excited but my heart tells me it's like normal," said Ding, who bases himself in Sheffield for much of the snooker season.

In the modern history of the World Championship, the only two winners from beyond Britain and Ireland are Canada's Cliff Thorburn (1980) and Australia's Neil Robertson (2010).

A sign of snooker's increasing popularity in China is that, according to a tweet posted by World Snooker, 27.1 per cent of the national television audience in the world's most populous country tuned in to watch his semi-final on CCTV5.

Ding has long been tipped as having the potential to take the title. This was a point emphasised by five-time world champion O'Sullivan, who tweeted Saturday: "I think if Ding wins this worlds, the floodgates could open, he cues so accurate and efficient."

Meanwhile Ding said: "There's more and more supporters in China, it's crazy like that. I want to stay away from that and keep calm. I've had a lot of messages. My phone's almost blown up."

The defeated McManus had no doubts that Ding could go all the way, saying: "The scoring Ding produced was up there with anything that's ever been seen here. I think there's only one person stopping him and it's himself. He's favourite in my eyes and it'll take a good performance to beat him."

Ding has been tipped to become a world champion ever since he won the UK Championship, snooker's second-most prestigious title, as an 18-year-old.

The 2013-14 season saw Ding match snooker great Stephen Hendry's record of five ranking titles in a season and he rose to No. 1 in the world rankings in December 2014.

However, a severe loss of form saw Ding drop out of the world's top 16 and meant he had to come through qualifying in order to gain a place in the main draw for this year's World Championship.

Fu and Selby resumed on Saturday at 8-8 and after a marathon 24th frame, won by the former champion and which lasted a Crucible record 1hr 16min 11sec, were still locked together at 12-12.

The match continued to be a gritty affair and Selby took more than an hour to win the final frame of the contest to book his place in a final.