LIUZHOU, China — Defending champion Lee Chong Wei and Chinese ace Lin Dan stayed on course for a dream World Superseries Finals title match Friday as both stormed into the semis unbeaten.
Malaysia's Lee came through a tight match 24-22, 21-14 against Danish veteran Peter Gade, while "Super Dan" made short work of Japan's Kenichi Tago 21-11, 21-13.
Crucially, both players topped their groups after the three round-robin games, meaning they will avoid each other in Saturday's semi-finals.
World number one Lee, who has won all three editions of badminton's season finale, will face Chinese second seed Chen Long, while Lin is up against long-time foe Gade.
Olympic champion Lin, 28, crushed Tago in just 42 minutes to stand just two matches from badminton's first "Super Grand Slam" by winning all nine of the sport's premier titles.
But there was no room in the knock-outs for colourful Indonesian Taufik Hidayat, the 2004 Olympic gold-medallist, who crashed to his third defeat 21-13, 21-7 against China's Chen.
Women's top seed Wang Yihan of China knocked out Germany's Juliane Schenk in three games to finish top of Group A. She was joined in the semi-finals by Danish player Tine Baun, who beat South Korea's Sung Ji-Hyun.
China's Wang Xin topped Group B despite a surprise loss to India's Saina Nehwal, who shrugged off some indifferent form with a 21-17, 22-20 win to book her place in the last four.
Hot Chinese favourites Wang Xiaoli and Yang Yu looked odds-on for the women's doubles crown after they swept into the semi-finals with three wins at the top of Group A.
However, China's bid for a clean-sweep of all five events took a hit when reigning world champions Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng were knocked out of the men's doubles with defeat to South Korean pair Ko Sung-Hyun and Yoo Yeon-Seong.
Chinese hopes in the men's doubles now rest on Chai Biao and Guo Zhendong, who qualified second in Group A.
The $500,000 showdown features the top eight singles players and doubles pairs after this year's 12-leg Superseries.
Lee and Lin's rivalry has been the focal point of this season after the Malaysian won their battle in the All-England final, but then lost out in the world title match in August.
Top-ranked Lee is now on a three-match losing streak against a resurgent Lin, badminton's most decorated player, after the Chinese pin-up shrugged off injury to win last month's Superseries events in Hong Kong and Shanghai.