German Rainer Schuettler grabbed the last Wimbledon men's semi-final spot on Thursday with a dogged 6-3, 5-7, 7-6, 6-7, 8-6 win over France's Arnaud Clement, in a match lasting more than five hours.
"I don't know how, but I won it," a delighted Schuettler told a news conference. "It could have gone either way. It's one of my matches that I will always remember."
The two former Australian Open runners-up returned to the court after sharing the first two sets on Wednesday when bad light halted play and they faced two rain interruptions the next day.
Fans on Court One were treated to a magnificent bonus as the two experienced players provided some enthralling tennis, with rallies full of angled drives and stealthy advances to the net as they both covered every blade of grass in pursuit of a semi-final showdown with Rafael Nadal.
Schuettler breathed a sigh of relief at the end of a gripping third set. After streaking into a 6-0 lead in the tiebreak he suddenly got the jitters and in the blink of an eye the bandana-wearing Clement had made it 6-6.
However, Clement served a double fault to undo all his effort and Schuettler sent down an ace to take the set.
The German, two years older than Clement at 32, then raced into a 4-1 lead in the fourth and had three break points.
Clement again refused to go quietly and he roared back to level the set and came through a tiebreak full of intense leg-sapping rallies to set up a decider.
By this stage Schuettler was getting visibly annoyed at the slow pace of Clement's play and his own failure to kill off his opponent, perhaps aware that Nadal would have had an extra 24 hours' rest by the time this match had finished.
Service breaks were traded at the start of the fifth before a short rain delay.
Clement then had a match point at 5-4 but Schuettler recovered and then served for victory himself at 6-5 only for the Frenchman to fire off some clean winners and break back.
A torrential rain shower sent the players scurrying off again at 6-6, deuce, seconds after Clement had fended off two break points, Schuettler roaring with frustration.
After five hours 12 minutes on the court, the match was finally won when Clement sent a return wide.
They were only 16 minutes short of beating the record for the longest men's singles match at Wimbledon, set in 1989 in a second round match between Greg Holmes and Todd Witsken.
Clement is no stranger to lengthy matches, having been involved in the longest timed singles match at a Grand Slam when he was beaten in six hours 33 minutes by fellow Frenchman Fabrice Santoro in the first round of the 2004 French Open.