Novak Djokovic was forced to dig deep to defeat David Ferrer 7-5 4-6 6-3 in an epic contest and move into the semi-finals of the Rome Masters.
After dominating a hard-fought opening set, the Serb was outplayed in the second and had to overcome a few wobbles on his way to wrapping up the match in just over two hours on Central Court at the Foro Italico.
Leading 3-1 in the deciding set, Djokovic - an 18-time ATP World Tour Masters 1000 champion - allowed his Spanish rival to break back to 3-3 before serving to take a 4-3 lead.
Despite some resistance from Ferrer in a thrilling eighth game, Djokovic, watched by new coach Boris Becker, broke back when he sent a powerful drive past the Spaniard and into the corner to take a 5-3 lead.
Ferrer was equally defiant in the final game, but after saving two break points the 2010 Rome finalist capitulated when he netted an easy return.
Djokovic looks back on track after a right wrist injury sidelined him last week and he will now meet Milos Raonic for a place in the final after the Canadian eighth seed produced a commanding 6-3 5-7 6-2 quarter-final win over Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.
Chardy had eliminated Swiss fourth seed Roger Federer on Wednesday and after seeing the unseeded Frenchman fight back to level by winning a close second set, Raonic regained control in a largely one-sided third set to advance.
Big-serving Raonic, considered an outside bet for the French Open later this month admitted his claycourt game is improving following his win.
"Yes, I am doing much better on clay and I am very happy," said Raonic.
"Movements, returns, generally I am becoming better and also how I deal with the difficult situations, the mental side as well."
Germany's Tommy Haas retired from his match after losing the first set 6-2 against Bulgarian opponent Grigor Dimitrov.
Haas, who appeared to be suffering from injury, lasted just 35 minutes before informing officials he could no longer carry on and shaking Dimitrov's hand before leaving the court.
Dimitrov, seeded 12, will now face top seed Rafael Nadal who edged out Andy Murray in three sets, for a place in the final.