Sloane Stephens was two points from defeat against Venus Williams in one US Open semifinal before pulling out the victory.
Madison Keys faced no such test, overwhelming CoCo Vandeweghe in the other semifinal.
Now Stephens and Keys, a pair of pals in their early 20s, will face each other in the first Grand Slam title match for each — and the first all-American women’s final at Flushing Meadows since 2002.
Stephens summoned some of her best strokes when she needed them the most, steeling herself when so close to defeat and taking the last three games of a back-and-forth thriller, edging seven-time major champion Williams 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 on Thursday night.
“I have a lot of grit,” said the unseeded Stephens, who is ranked 83rd after having surgery on her left foot in January and is the fourth unseeded finalist at the tournament in the Open era, which dates to 1968. “I don’t give up. Like, I’m not just going to give it to someone. I’m not just going to let them take it from me.”
The 15th-seeded Keys, who dominated No. 20 Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-2 in barely more than an hour, had her own recent health issue to deal with: She missed the first two months of this year after an offseason procedure on her left wrist, then needed another procedure in June because of pain in that arm.
“It was kind of one of those days where I came out and I was kind of in a zone,” Keys said of her play Thursday, “and I just kind of forced myself to stay there.”