Li Na will play Dominika Cibulkova in a rematch of the Australian Open final after recovering from 10 missed match points to defeat Aleksandra Wozniak at the BNP Paribas Open.
The top seed appeared to be having a straightforward evening until the final game, when she eventually clinched victory at the 11th time of asking.
Li said: "I think all the match I was feeling pretty good except the last game.
"The funny thing is at the beginning of the game I was feeling tight, nervous, and then I was feeling like, 'What's going on? Why can't I finish the match?'.
"But she never gave up and she tried to defend every point. It was a little bit tedious in the last game."
Cibulkova was one of the more surprising grand slam finalists of recent years and, although she was well beaten by Li in the final in Melbourne, the Slovakian has continued her good form.
On Tuesday she upset eighth seed Petra Kvitova 6-3 6-2 to earn another crack at the Chinesewoman in the quarter-finals in Indian Wells.
Second seed Agnieszka Radwanska has stayed away from drama so far and defeated France's Alize Cornet 7-5 6-3 to set up a last-eight meeting with Jelena Jankovic, who put out last year's runner-up Caroline Wozniacki.
Wozniacki led 3-1 in the opening set but Jankovic reeled off 10 games in a row before going on to win 6-3 6-1.
The Serbian struggled with a back problem in her first match, and she said: "I kind of surprised myself. Yesterday I did not hit at all. I had a lot of treatment, I could not put my shoes on."
Simona Halep won the battle of the rising stars against Eugenie Bouchard 6-2 1-6 6-4.
Australian Open semi-finalist Bouchard broke serve to lead 4-3 in the decider but Halep hit back with three games in a row.
The Romanian won more singles titles than any woman except Serena Williams last season and has carried the momentum into 2014.
Sixth seed Halep next meets Australian Casey Dellacqua, who was the beneficiary of American Lauren Davis' withdrawal through illness.
Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova's conqueror Camila Giorgi was brought firmly back down to earth with a 6-2 6-1 hammering by fellow Italian Flavia Pennetta, who plays American Sloane Stephens in the last eight.
In the men's tournament, Novak Djokovic wobbled but avoided joining Rafael Nadal in making an early exit.
Stanislas Wawrinka aside, the top men have been finding life rather difficult in the Californian desert, capped by world number one Nadal's shock loss against Alexandr Dolgopolov on Monday evening.
Djokovic headed to Indian Wells without a title for the first season since 2006 and question marks remain about his form after a 6-1 3-6 6-1 win over world number 91 Alejandro Gonzalez.
The 25-year-old had never won a main-draw match on the ATP Tour before this week but caused Djokovic plenty of problems.
And the Serb knows he will have to raise his level if he is to make the quarter-finals, with in-form Marin Cilic up next.
Djokovic said: "I thought I played really well from the start. And then suddenly I just had a big loss of concentration and allowed him to win the second set for no reason.
"I bounced back better in the third, but I obviously cannot allow myself to have these particular concentration lapses in the match at this level - especially in the next match."
Cilic has blossomed since hiring Goran Ivanisevic as his coach ahead of the start of the season and Tuesday's 6-4 6-3 win over Tommy Robredo was his 20th of the year, more than any other man.
There may be no Nadal any more, but three Spanish men are in the last 16.
Fernando Verdasco was the most impressive on Tuesday, beating eighth seed Richard Gasquet 7-6 (7/5) 6-1 while Tomas Berdych's conqueror Roberto Bautista Agut and Feliciano Lopez are also through.
Latvian Ernests Gulbis won the most crowd-pleasing match of the day, upsetting 15th seed Grigor Dimitrov 2-6 6-1 7-5, while John Isner ensured there will be a home presence in the fourth round by defeating Lu Yen-hsun.