(Reuters) - Salem Al Dawsari's deflected second-half strike took Al Hilal into their second Asian Champions League final in three seasons with a 2-1 win over 10-man Al Nassr in Riyadh on Tuesday.
Al Dawsari settled the semi-final between the Saudi Arabian rivals at a packed King Saud University Stadium with 19 minutes remaining to take Al Hilal into next month's final, when they will face either Ulsan Hyundai or Pohang Steelers.
Moussa Morega gave Al Hilal the early lead before Ali Lajami's sending off in first half added time handed given Leonardo Jardim's team the advantage.
However, Anderson Talisca levelled five minutes into the second half ahead of Al Dawsari's late match winner.
Al Hilal's attempt to successfully defend their title last year ended in expulsion from the competition in the group phase after a COVID-19 outbreak within their squad left them unable to field a team for a game against Shabab Al Ahli.
But there have been few problems for the three-time Asian champions in this year's campaign and Morega gave them the perfect start against their bitter cross-Riyadh rivals.
In the 17th minute, Al Nassr lost possession inside the Al Hilal half and within seconds the ball was in the net as a series of slick passes ended with Bafetimbi Gomis playing Morega in on goal. His deflected shot looped over keeper Waleed Abdullah.
Al Hilal's hopes improved further when, two minutes into first-half added time, Al Nassr went down to 10 men as referee Chris Beath showed a straight red card to Lajami following a lunge that caught Morega on the inside of his calf.
Talisca equalised for Al Nassr when he met Abdulfattah Asiri's corner with a firm header to keep his side's hopes of a first Asian Champions League final appearance alive.
Those dreams were dashed in the 71st minute, however, when Al Dawsari's strike from inside the area took a heavy deflection off Al Nassr captain Abdullah Madu to give Abdullah no chance.
Madu then missed the opportunity to take the game into extra time when, in the fifth minute of added time, he shot wide after a knockdown by Abderrazak Hamdallah left the defender with time and space in the penalty box to score.
That miss means Al Hilal advanced to the final, which will be played in Riyadh on Nov. 23 and they will meet South Korean opposition in the decider.
Defending champions Ulsan Hyundai take on compatriots Pohang Steelers on Wednesday looking to keep alive their attempt to become the first team to win back-to-back Asian Champions League titles since Saudi Arabia's Al Ittihad in 2005.
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Ken Ferris)