Unseeded Elise Burgin blew two match points in the second set's eighth game but rallied in a tiring tie breaker to defeat second-seeded Manuela Maleeva, 6-4, 7-6, and advance to today's final of the $150,000 Virginia Slims of Houston.
Top-seeded Martina Navratilova ousted No. 3 Helena Sukova, 6-3, 6-0, in the second semifinal.
Baltimorean Burgin, ranked 52nd in the world, stunned Maleeva with an aggressive attack in the first set, kept the pressure on during the second set and jumped to a 5-2 lead. But Maleeva, rated No. 4 worldwide, came back.
They battled to 6-6 in the tie breaker before Maleeva returned Burgin's serve wide and Burgin followed with an overhead winner.
"That last overhead took three hours," Burgin said. "I thought it would never come down and when it did I thought it would hit the net or something. I may need a wheelchair. A third set would have been really tough."
The two went at it for 2 hours 17 minutes in 88-degree weather on the Sweetwater Country Club clay court.
Navratilova almost looked to be coasting against Sukova, but she denied it. "When someone has beaten me before, I don't coast. I try to beat them."
Navratilova lost to Sukova in the semifinals of the Australian Open last year, ending Navratilova's record string of 74 consecutive victories.
Navratilova is one match away from her 105th tournament victory as a pro. She has a 35-2 match record this year and a 59-6 record in sets in 1985 . . .
Johan Kriek and Jimmy Arias, both unseeded, advanced to meet in today's best-of-five-set final of the $312,000 Alan King Caesar's Palace Classic. Kriek put out No. 6 seed Tomas Smid, 6-4, 6-3. Arias fought past Ken Flach, 7-6 (10-8), 7-5.