Melbourne, Australia, 15 December 2012 | Mitchell Cleary

Ben Mitchell is one step away from a second consecutive Australian Open berth after a drama-filled five-set cliffhanger win over Matt Barton in the semifinals of the Australian Open 2013 Play-off.

The Queenslander claimed his third straight victory over New South Welshman Barton, enduring almost five hours to win 6-3, 7-6(0), 6-7(5), 3-6, 9-7 in blustery conditions.

Taking the first two sets and leading 3-0 in the third set, Mitchell admitted it was a relief to win through to tomorrow’s final against close friend Matt Reid.

“It’s tough playing so well and being two sets to love up and I’m only a couple of points away from winning the third,” the 20-year-old said.

“If I win that I’m done in straight sets, I’m off the court and preparing for tomorrow.

“It was heartbreaking losing that third set and it took me a while to get back on my feet after that. I refused to lose in the fifth set and I never really doubted myself.”

Barton was gifted back into the match, winning the third set tiebreaker 7-5 after a double-fault by Mitchell.

In yet another momentum shift in a match where both battled to hold the ascendancy, Barton claimed the fourth set with an ace before Mitchell held his nerve in the last.

He said he hadn’t had much time to take in what another Grand Slam berth would mean but said he would do everything in his powers to prepare for a return bout against Reid.

He hailed extra fitness work this season as he looks to improve on his current ATP ranking of No.302, hoping it holds him in good stead tomorrow.

“I do lots of strength work but this year it’s been mainly endurance. It really paid off today,” he said.

“Physically, I don’t think people understand how tough it is to play for five hours. I’m really happy to get away with the win and all the running up and down the mountains has been worth it.

“I’m hoping it (body) holds up tomorrow but I have no idea. I’m just happy I got away with that win and I’ll try and do what I can to get my body ready.”

At one stage it looked like Mitchell would never need to rely on his improved fitness base, racing to a 4-2 lead in the first set before closing it out with an ace.

It was much of the same early in the second as his finesse and smart shot selection was proving too difficult for the more powerful Barton, outlasting him as the rallies deepened.

Barton did all he could to break in the second with a 4-3 lead but Mitchell valiantly battled two net tape losses in one game to hold serve at 4-4. The next three games went to deuce, Barton holding a 6-5 lead.

With set point on offer to level the match at one set apiece, the New South Welshman thought he had won it, yet the ball was judged out. It was then called for a replay by the chair umpire, a furious Barton pleading his case.

It worked into Mitchell’s favour as the Queenslander quietly went about his business at the other end to etch out a 7-0 tiebreaker win.

“It was right on the line and I was surprised it got called out in the first place and he was quite lucky because he wasn’t going to get there anyway,” Mitchell said.

“I guess it turned into my advantage, I played a really good tiebreaker.”

> view the AO Play-off men’s draw

As Reid closed out a win on the adjoining Melbourne Park court, Mitchell looked set to follow at 3-0 in the third and deuce. The match had been earlier delayed 30 minutes due to the morning’s inclement weather.

The body language factor was there for all to see before Barton broke back in the third and forced it into a tiebreaker to win 7-5.

Barton broke early in the fourth, before Mitchell levelled at 3-3. Barton edged in front to break at 5-3, the Queenslander warned for hitting the ball out of the court.

Barton closed the penultimate set out with another ace to set up a classic finish.

Mitchell looked to have it in the bag at 3-0 in the last before Barton fired back to put the match on serve. He saved a match point with a monster ace before they traded blows.

Mitchell eventually broke the deadlock at 9-7, a Barton backhand error into the net handing him victory.