Second seed Novak Djokovic saved three match points before scraping past Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber while Rafa Nadal eased into the fourth round of the Indian Wells ATP tournament yesterday.
Trailing 4-5 and 0-40 in the deciding set, Djokovic took advantage of a spate of unforced errors by his opponent to claw his way back from the brink of defeat and triumph 6-3 2-6 7-6.
After Djokovic battled though in just over two-and-a-half hours on the stadium court, twice champion Nadal of Spain eased home with a 6-2 6-2 demolition of Croat Mario Ancic.
World number two Djokovic, champion here in 2008, won the 10th game of the final set when Kohlschreiber netted a forehand and the Serb went on to clinch the tiebreak 7-3 as the German's resistance crumbled at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Djokovic, who appeared to be in total control after sweeping through the opening set and leading 2-0 in the second, let out a loud yell of relief after sealing victory with a forehand winner.
"Fighting through, it's another win so I try to look on the positive side, the things I did well," the 22-year-old told reporters. "He easily could be the winner of this match, and he would deserve it.
"I am still trying to find rhythm, to feel good on the court. For the next match, I want to maintain focus right up to the end and not have any mental breakdowns in the middle."
The Serb will next meet 20th-seeded Croat Ivan Ljubicic, who crushed Argentine qualifier Brian Dabul 6-2 6-3.
Kohlschreiber, who beat Djokovic in straight sets when the pair last met at the 2009 French Open, took the second set after winning six games in a row on a sun-splashed afternoon in the California desert.
He went on to break Djokovic in the second game of the third set and immediately held serve to lead 3-0.
"If I could pull my hair off, I would do it in that moment," Djokovic said of his frustration after losing nine games in a row.
In a match of bizarre momentum shifts, the Serb saved two break points in the next game and then broke his opponent twice to lead 4-3 before he lost serve in the eighth.
Djokovic appeared to be on his way out when he hit a forehand long to trail 0-40 in the 10th game but he won the next three points courtesy of a forehand smash at the net and successive backhand errors by Kohlschreiber.
He managed to hold serve and maintained winning momentum after the wildly fluctuating set went into a tiebreak.
Nadal, who beat Britain's Andy Murray in last year's final, broke Ancic twice in each set to line up a fourth-round encounter with big-serving American John Isner.
"I am feeling confident, I am playing well," the Spanish world number three said. "I am playing at the good level.
"My serve was important but more important was my rhythm from the baseline. I lost only a few points because I didn't make many mistakes, only seven unforced errors in two sets."
Earlier, 21st seed Juan Monaco of Argentina upset 11th-seeded Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-6 3-6 6-3 in three hours and one minute, the longest match this week.