Nadal is aiming to win his fifth Rome Masters title
Rafael Nadal will play fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in the final of the Rome Masters after each claimed semi-final victories on Saturday.
World number three Nadal saw off the challenge of unseeded Latvian Ernests Gulbis via a 6-4 3-6 6-4 win.
Earlier, 13th seed Ferrer sealed a 7-5 6-3 over fellow countryman and number six seed Fernando Verdasco.
World number 17 Ferrer will be bidding to prevent Nadal from claiming his fifth Rome title in Sunday's final.
Neither player had dropped a set in the tournament prior to Saturday's semi-finals but while Ferrer preserved that record, Nadal lost his impressive record, which also extended to all previous nine matches he had played on clay this year.
The six-time Grand Slam champion was seriously tested by his 40th-ranked opponent, who knocked out world number one Roger Federer earlier in the tournament.
Gulbis' fierce serve (he struck 14 aces to none conceded) denied Nadal any rhythm on his return games and he converted only two of his 12 break points, in the opening game of the match and then in the final game of an encounter lasting over two-and-a-half hours.
In contrast, Ferrer sealed his victory in an hour and a half to reach his first Masters final.
The 13th seed was 5-1 down in the first set but rallied to win it before bossing the second as Verdasco faded.
Ferrer was able to take advantage of a sluggish Verdasco who had fought his way to a marathon 7-6 (7-4) 3-6 6-4 quarter-final victory over world number two Novak Djokovic a day earlier.
"In the first set I played very badly and was very nervous," admitted Ferrer. "Maybe in the second I was more relaxed and I had a better feel for my best shots," he said.
Ferrer took advantage of a tiring Verdasco to reach the final
"When I broke back for 5-3 it was easier for me and I had more confidence in my shots."
World number nine Verdasco, who has reached the final of his last two tournaments - losing to Nadal in Monte Carlo two weeks ago and beating Robin Soderling to win the Barcelona Open last weekend - seized the initiative in the first set.
But he then lost his composure and a number of unforced errors entered his game as he lost six straight games to give Ferrer the set and control of the match.
"Up to 5-1 I was playing well but it was more a case of him making many unforced errors," said Verdasco.
"I was feeling good mentally but my body was not feeling the same as before. I was slower, I had less power and against a player like David it's tough."
The second set was more straightforward for the superior Ferrer who has not dropped a set this week and leads the tour with 23 wins on clay this season.