MELBOURNE, Jan 28 (Agencies): Andy Murray needed all his fighting spirit as he toiled to a four-set win over David Ferrer to reach a second successive Australian Open final.
The Briton, seeded fifth, won 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1, 7-6 (7-2) to set up a final against Novak Djokovic on Sunday.
Murray produced an error-strewn performance in the face of Spaniard Ferrer�s class and relentless energy.
But he battled back from the brink of a two-set deficit and is now one win away from a first Grand Slam title.
Serve was dominant in a low-key start to the match, with Murray misfiring a little on his groundstrokes, but the first opportunity for either man came when he got to deuce at 3-3 with some attacking returns, and Ferrer faltered with forehand and backhand errors.
Murray had his break without having got out of first gear but immediately found himself under pressure at 15-40 in the following game as Ferrer stepped up the pace, and the seventh seed clinched it by ending a magnificent rally at the net.
The match had now come alive and a beautiful backhand down the line took Murray to 15-30 in the next game before a similar stroke at the end of a hypnotic 40-shot rally earned him another two break points, but a Ferrer ace and a snatched return into the net saw the Spaniard escape.
Murray now carried the pressure and when Ferrer earned himself a set point, the world number five blazed a forehand wide - his 16th unforced error - to lose a set he had earlier controlled.
The subdued Briton needed a lift and he got exactly that at the start of the second, breaking when Ferrer sent a forehand long, but it did not signal a change in the rhythm of the match as the exasperated Murray found himself 0-40 down moments later and netted a backhand on the third break point.
As the second set progressed, it was the Spaniard who increasingly looked in command as a bewildered Murray just could not find a way through his defences and time after time ended lengthy rallies with a mistake of his own.
Clearly rattled by the way the match was going, and in regular dialogue with the umpire, Murray was in deep trouble at 15-40 in game seven of the second set but served his way out of trouble.
The errors kept on coming though and Murray was staring at a two-set deficit as Ferrer, 5-4 up and bristling with intent, hammered an attacking return at 30-30 to force error number 32, but Murray saw off the set point with a big serve down the middle and clung on.
Finally, Ferrer showed a crack in his armour after seeing that opportunity slip by and, at break point down in the following game, he surprisingly netted a mid-court backhand after easily chasing down a Murray drop shot.
Murray now had his chance to get right back in the match but he could not capitalise, failing to find a first serve from 30-30 and leaking a backhand wide on break point, and having dropped serve immediately after breaking for the third time in the match, the signs looked very ominous going into the tie-break.
The Scot required a serious step-up in quality and he produced it, opening with a fizzing return and racing to a 6-0 lead before converting his third set point to get back on level terms after two hours of largely desperate stuff.