(CNN) -- Gael Monfils saved five match points before beating top seed Roger Federer 7-6 6-7 7-6 to reach the final of the Paris Masters on Saturday.
The home hero will play Robin Soderling for the title after the Swede beat another Frenchman, Michael Llodra, in an earlier pulsating encounter at the Bercy arena.
It was truly the great escape for 12th seed Monfils, who was on the ropes as he served at 5-6 down in the deciding set, having broken back after dropping his service for the first time. The opening two sets were shared on tiebreaks.
16-time grand slam champion Federer proceeded to force a succession of match points, all saved by a mixture of dogged defense by his French opponent or uncustomary errors by the world number two.
The partisan crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief when Monfils finally forced the third tiebreak of the match and claimed an early mini-break.
Federer retrieved the loss but uncharacteristic forehand errors saw him fall behind again and when Monfils was presented with his first match point he seized it.
He will now hope to go one better than 2009 when he was beaten in the final by Novak Djokovic.
"I went to the limits of myself," Monfils admitted after his first career victory over Federer.
"I feel better and better as the tournament goes on. I ran out of juice a little bit at the start of the third set but the fans were there, they pushed me and I kept believing."
Earlier, world number five Robin Soderling had to save three match points before ending the fairytale run of Llodra.
He won 6-7 7-5 7-6 to reach his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final, but came under massive pressure in the 12th game of the third set.
Like Monfils, Soderling staved off defeat to force a deciding tiebreak and secured victory on his second match point after two hours and 49 minutes of gripping action.
"Today it was a great match. It wasn't maybe pretty, but I'm here as a winner," Soderling told the official ATP Tour website.
Llodra, who came back from a break down in the deciding set to set up his victory chances, had defeated defending champion Djokovic and Nikolay Davydenko on his way to his first Masters semifinal.