Russia are one win away from a fourth Olympic Volleyball title after defeating Bulgaria 3-1 in the semi-finals.
Alexander Butko of Russia
Alexander Butko of Russia celebrates after a play against Bulgaria during the Men's Volleyball Semifinals on Day 14.

In a battle of two well-matched sides, it was Vladimir Alenko's men who held their nerve the longest, making the most of getting an early jump on their opponents who duly came back at them towards the end.

The damage had been done in two devastating opening sets, though, with Bulgaria caught on the hop by a Russia side brilliant at the net.

They mixed up their tactics, setting quicker than usual, with previously unheralded players such as Taras Khtey chiming in with some important contributions.

But Bulgaria showed wonderful resilience to take the third set and went after Russia in the fourth, only to eventually fall short.

Service errors cost them dearly - they made 16 in total - while Russia were clinical with ball in hand, taking eight points from unreturned deliveries. The trend for that was set in the opener, when five-Games veteran Sergey Tetyukhin served them out of trouble from 17-13 down to 18-17 in front.

That knocked Bulgaria's confidence and, even without Dmitriy Muserskiy, who was sat out for most of the game owing to injury, Russia had enough to hammer home their advantage.

Maxim Mikhaylov returned 25 points and Khtey 13, while Tsvetan Sokolov led the way for Bulgaria with 16.