University of Santo Tomas ended a six-year wait to make it to the title round with a 1-0 win over Ateneo in extra time in the UAAP Season 80 men's football tournament Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Conrado Dimacali's header from a saved attempt in the 105th minute put the Growling Tigers in front.
The Blue Eagles tried to equalize and possibly send the match to penalties but Koko Gaudiel's free kick deep in extra time hit the crossbar.
Proud owners of league-best 35 titles, UST will face University of the Philippines, which eliminated De La Salle in the other semifinal, 1-0, in the one-game final next week at the same Malate venue.
"For the players, they deserve to be in the finals because they did everything they could to win. We didn't give up. We didn't give in since the first half," said coach Marjo Allado, after the Tigers secured their first championship appearance since the 2011-12 season.
After two seasons of disappointments, including last year's 1-2 semifinals loss to Ateneo, the Tigers finally got over the hump.
"We're happy," said Allado, whose squad has seven graduating players and are hoping to end their careers as winners. "Our motivation is there will be no more next year."
UST last ruled the league in the 2006-07 season when it defeated Far Eastern University in the championship round, when Allado was then an assistant to Nonoy Carpio.
The Tigers were truly wary of the Eagles' main offensive options Jarvey Gayoso and Enzo Ceniza and found their confidence to win after a scoreless 90 minutes that sent the match into extra time.
Kyle Magdato's 47th minute strike was enough for the Fighting Maroons to make a return trip to the Finals after a one-year absence.