Russia reached the Olympic men's volleyball final with a testing 3-1 win over underdogs Bulgaria on Friday to keep alive their hopes of winning gold in the event for the first time since 1980.

Russia, ranked second in the world, had too much raw power for the slighter and more nimble Bulgarians and despite slipping up in the third set, edged their semi-final clash 25-21 25-15 23-25 25-23 at Earls Court.

The powerhouses claimed men's volleyball gold at the Moscow Olympics and have been losing finalists twice in the intervening years.

They will play either Brazil in Sunday's gold-medal match with Bulgaria, who had surprised many by reaching this stage of the tournament, playing off for the bronze.

Brazil reached their third straight Olympic men's volleyball final as they romped past Italy 3-0.

The world's top ranked team, who won gold in Athens before picking up silver in Beijing, will face Russia on Sunday after demolishing their semi-final opponents 25-21 25-12 25-21 in front of a raucous crowd.