NEW DELHI - Badminton powerhouse China's decade-long Thomas Cup reign came to a spectacular end after Japan pulled off a huge upset with a 3-0 victory in the semi-final of the men's team event on Friday.
World number two Chen Long lost 21-13 21-11 to Kenichi Tago and the Chinese, winners of the last five editions, fell further behind when they lost the first doubles match.
Veteran Du Pengyu rekindled Chinese hopes by claiming the first game against Kento Momota but it was the 2012 world junior champion who prevailed 23-25 21-18 21-14 in an 85-minute battle between youth and experience.
Olympic champion Lin Dan could only watch helplessly as China's bid for a 10th Thomas Cup title came unstuck at the Siri Fort Complex.
Ranked 58th, a reflection of his infrequent outings since winning the gold at London Olympics, Dan was eligible to play only the third singles but his team mates could not stretch the contest to that point.
Japan coach Joo Bong Park had no hesitations in admitting he was shocked by the outcome.
"It came as a big surprise to us all," the Korean said after guiding Japan to their maiden Thomas Cup final.
"What was even more surprising was the way Momota won the second singles against Du. If he had not, then the tie could have gone either way with Lin Dan to play the third singles," conceded Park.
Japan will meet the winners of Friday's other semi-final between Malaysia and Indonesia in Sunday's final.
China remained on course to defend their Uber Cup title after overpowering South Korea 3-0 in the first semi-final of the women's event.
They will take on India or Japan in Saturday's final.