|Monfils shares his win with the home crowd as he prepares to face Soderling in the final [AFP]
Home crowd hero Gael Monfils of France saved five match points to beat top-seeded Roger Federer 7-6 (7), 6-7 (1), 7-6 (4) on Saturday and reach the final of the Paris Masters.
Monfils, the 12th seed, fought back from 4-1 down in the third set to reach the final at the Bercy arena for the second year in succession, following his defeat by Novak Djokovic last year.
Monfils will meet Swede Robin Soderling - who is also yet to win a Masters event - in Sunday's final after Soderling saved three match points before ending Frenchman Michael Llodra's brilliant run with a 6-7 7-5 7-6 win.
Federer, a 16-times grand slam champion, had five match points in the 12th game of the deciding set but Monfils saved them all to force a tiebreaker he won 7-4, ending the contest with a service winner after two hours, 41 minutes.
Monfils had lost all five of his previous meetings with world number two Federer, but he took a well contested first set when the Swiss champion netted a forehand at 7-8 down in the tie-break.
The second set was every bit as tight as the first, but Federer managed to level the match after sweeping his way imperiously through the tie-break.
The game appeared up for Monfils in the third set as he fell 4-1 down, but the world number 14, roared on by a typically boisterous Bercy crowd, dug deep to see off five match points and scrap his way into the final.
"I went to the limits of myself," said a jubilant Monfils.
"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."
Federer, guilty of several uncharacteristic errors when the match appeared his for the taking, has never won the Paris Masters, and next plays the season-ending ATP Finals in London from November 21.
"There were two pretty extraordinary matches today," said Federer.
"We could have had a Llodra-Federer final and it turned into a Monfils-Soderling final. What's disappointing is that I was in control of the situation with a break up in the third set.
"Of course it hurts. On one of the match points I had the whole court open and I couldn't put it in, a bit like Llodra in his match."