Top seeds Gonzaga advanced to the final of the US national college basketball championship after downing South Carolina 77-73 in Arizona on Saturday.
The Bulldogs survived a second-half collapse which saw them blow a 14-point lead before they regathered their composure to hold on with two late free-throws in a see-saw Final Four duel.
The victory at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale means Gonzaga will face North Carolina in Monday's final. The Tar Heels advanced to the final after squeezing past the University of Oregon 77-76 in Saturday's other semi-final.
Gonzaga point-guard Nigel Williams-Goss led the scoring for the Bulldogs with 23 points, five rebounds and six assists while towering freshman Zach Collins had 14 points and 13 rebounds from the bench.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few lavished praise on his team after a pulsating win.
"I've had some really, really tough teams. I've had some really close teams," Few said.
"I've had some teams that have been crazy efficient on the offensive end and ones that have been pretty darned good on the defensive end that probably didn't get credit for it. These guys are all of that. All of it."
However Gonzaga were almost left rueing what would have been an upset defeat when a 65-51 lead with 11 minutes to play turned into a 67-65 advantage for South Carolina after 16 unanswered points.
Collins however came to the Bulldogs' rescue, sinking a three-pointer to give his team the lead once more and launch a 7-0 run.
South Carolina almost leveled the score at 74-74 but Rakym Felder's attempted layup was blocked by the imposing figure of Collins.
Williams-Goss meanwhile said Gonzaga had been motivated by pre-match talk from South Carolina that they might be paralysed by nerves.
"The journey we've been on has just been unreal. And we just never stopped believing and we've had the utmost confidence in ourselves the entire season long," Williams-Goss said.
"I guess they were making comments that we were the most nervous team in the tournament. And, you know, we just heard everything this year -- we've heard the conference, we've heard we haven't played tight games, that we're not tough, we've heard everything."