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China won the enthralling game at the Maniototo Ice Rink 7-6.
New Zealand skip Bridget Becker almost forced an extra end on the 10th when she pushed in her stone for two shots.
"I tried for three shots but there was not enough weight on my stone and it did not go into the house," she told the Otago Daily Times after the game.
"But I'm pleased with the girls. We all played well as a team and almost got there."
This was a remarkable performance because the Chinese team won the world title in Korea this year and is the favourite to win the gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver next year.
China led 3-2 after five ends and was still only one point ahead after seven ends.
But a three on the eighth end proved decisive.
China will play Japan in today's final after the Japanese beat Korea 6-5 when skip Moe Meguro drew the shot with her last rock on the final end.
Australia caused an upset in the men's semifinals when it beat Korea 8-5.
Korea jumped to an early lead with a three on the first end and Australia was forced to play catch-up curling after that.
"It was a good win for us because Korea is a good team and has played well all week," Australia skip Hugh Milliken said after the game.
"We weren't going to give up after losing three at the start. We are a team that doesn't give up so we just had to battle on."
Australia drew level at 3-3 after five of the 10 ends, and the scores were tied at 5-5 after two more ends.
Australia scored a two and a one on the next two ends and Ian Palangio made the game safe when he pushed a Korean stone out of the house on the last end.
China beat the United States 9-6 in a tie-breaker yesterday, then outclassed Japan 11-3 to set up a meeting with Australia in the men's final today.