The Shanghai Dragons charged past the Dallas Fuel 3-1 on Thursday to earn a spot in the Overwatch League's playoff final.
The Fuel will get a second chance at advancing to the championship match on Friday when they oppose the winner of an earlier Friday matchup between the San Francisco Shock andthe Atlanta Reign.
In losers-bracket action Thursday, the two-time defending champion Shock edged the Chengdu Hunters 3-2 while the Reign downed the Los Angeles Gladiators 3-2.
The double-elimination playoffs featured the Overwatch League's top eight teams. The winner of the Saturday finale will pocket $1.5 million from the $3.2 million prize pool.
The 18-week OWL regular season determined qualification for the playoff brackets, with three teams from the Eastern Region and five teams from the Western Region advancing to the event.
In the winners-bracket final, the Dragons again looked strong in their victory over the Fuel. With a star-studded lineup that plays intelligently at a breakneck pace, Shanghai produces a relentless assault that few teams can withstand. Though the Fuel came prepared, they stood little chance.
Shanghai started with a scrappy 2-0 win on Ilios, then Dallas responded with a 3-2 win on Volskaya Industries, a historically strong map for the franchise. After that, though, the Dragons locked in, using DPS Jae-won "LIP" Lee's world-class Sombra to find picks with hacks on key targets before fights could properly begin.
Shanghai took Numbani 3-2 before clamping down on defense in Game 4, winning Dorado 3-1 to take the series.
In the losers bracket, the Reign fought hard to get past the Gladiators. Both teams stuck to the playstyles that brought them their success throughout the year, with Los Angeles playing poke/dive and Atlanta playing brawl/poke.
Los Angeles took an early lead with a 2-0 win on Ilios, then Atlanta won a 3-2 Hanamura to level the series.
The Gladiators took the series to King's Row next, where the Reign won 5-4, but they couldn't close the series out, allowing Los Angeles to take Dorado 2-1 to force Game 5.
On Nepal, the Gladiators looked poised to tie the map up with a 99-0 lead on Shrine down 0-1, but then it fell apart for Los Angeles. Atlanta took control at the last minute and went on to take the final map 100-99 to claim the map 2-1 and move on in the playoffs.
On the other side of the losers bracket, the Shock survived a potential reverse sweep from the Chengdu Hunters in an epic series.
The Shock came out swinging while the Hunters looked lethargic early on, with San Francisco taking Lijiang Tower 2-0. After the teams drew Temple of Anubis 3-3, the Shock dominated on King's Row behind strong brawl compositions, taking a 4-3 win to go up 2-0 in the series.
After that, though, the Hunters woke up, led by MVP DPS Huang "leave" Xin. leave led the Hunters to a 3-2 win on Dorado and a dominant 2-0 victory on Ilios to tie the series at 2-2.
In the deciding Game 6 on Havana, the Shock's offense sputtered occasionally but was powered by DPS Charlie "nero" Zwarg, who played well on multiple heroes. Then, on defense, the Shock locked the Hunters down for a 2-0 win to take the series.
Overwatch League playoff prize pool
1. $1.5 million
5-6. $150,000 -- Chengdu Hunters, Los Angeles Gladiators
7-8. $50,000 -- Philadelphia Fusion, Washington Justice
--By Noah Waltzer, Field Level Media