Lee Westwood was closing in on a Ryder Cup record, but for the first time since 1991 Europe were the ones playing catch-up on the opening day at Valhalla.
America took the opening foursomes 3-1 with first Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson and then Justin Rose and Ian Poulter wasting three-hole leads.
Paul Casey and Henrik Stenson, themselves two up after two, lost like Rose and Poulter, but Westwood and Sergio Garcia gained a crucial half after being two down with two to play.
That maintained Garcia's unbeaten record in cup foursomes – he had won his previous eight – but Westwood was the one who had the chance to enter the history books in the afternoon fourballs.
The Worksop golfer, struggling with tonsillitis only two weeks ago, has not lost a game since the 2002 singles against Scott Verplank at The Belfry.
If he and Dane Soren Hansen, whose debut came after he sat out the morning session, could avoid defeat against big-hitting JB Holmes and fellow rookie Boo Weekley Westwood would equal the great Arnold Palmer's 12-match unbeaten run.
And when the former Europe number one had a hat-trick of birdies from the second to move from one down to two up it was looking good.
As it was in front of them. Harrington faced Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim for the second time in the day – the Americans had got out of it with a half before lunch from three down with only six to play – but this time he had his fellow Irishman Graeme McDowell alongside him and they stood one up after 11.
Poulter and Rose were hitting back too. A closing bogey six had sent them to defeat against Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell, but after eight holes of fourballs they led Ryder Cup first-timers Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis by two.
The only European pair trailing were Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez, but winning the long seventh meant they were only one down to Leonard and Mahan, who had earlier defeated Casey and Stenson 3&2.
Poulter was particularly keen to get something out of the day, of course.
Faldo's controversial wild card choice ahead of Darren Clarke had plunged his pitch into the creek on the 13th as he and close friend Rose lost their foursomes grip and his missed five-footer on the last settled it.
Westwood said of his morning escape: "Any time you get out of jail it makes a massive difference and can be a momentum swinger."
Harrington, who despite Europe's nine-point victory at The K Club two years ago managed only one half himself there, was disappointed not to have immediately doubled his contribution.
The Open and US PGA champion stated: "We missed a couple of putts that we could have closed the match out with.
"They came back strong and obviously it was tight over the last three holes, but I thought I had holed it on the last."
Harrington – or "Padraig Harrison" as the nervous-sounding first tee announcer mangled his name – was in the opening game for the third cup clash running.
As in Detroit in 2004 he and his partner (it was Colin Montgomerie then) began spectacularly with a birdie, Harrington holing from six feet.
But just when it looked as if they would be having an early lunch they bogeyed the 13th, Mickelson hit a wonder chip to win the next and followed with an 18-foot birdie putt.
The chance was still Europe's on the last when Kim only just got out of sand, but Harrington, having thinned a recovery from a fairway bunker, could not convert from 12 feet.
After eight holes, the Dubliner had treatment on his neck from his Australian sports chiropractor Dale Richardson – the man who was a major part in his Open victory in July after a wrist injury threatened to put him out before the start – but he said afterwards it was not a major worry.
Faldo said: "We had a very tough morning, but the guys gave 100%.
"It is not just the games which turn, but also the emotions. You have to regroup and go again, but everybody is up.
"The crowds are really fair. Unfortunately they are outnumbering us pretty heavily up that 18th, but I warned the guys that would be the case."
Opposite number Paul Azinger did not deny, meanwhile, that he had told fans at a downtown rally the night before that it was OK to cheer misses.
"Essentially, when we go over there they cheer when we miss," he said. "I don't think that the American fans are really into what the Ryder Cup is all about.
"It wasn't meant to be malicious and I'm really proud that the fans have been absolutely perfectly behaved this morning. It was kind of an education almost."
Not surprisingly, Westwood, Garcia and Harrington were required for afternoon action as well, but there was bound to be some – many, in fact – who would question Faldo sending Rose and Poulter out again. Especially as Oliver Wilson did not get a game all day.
Azinger had, as promised, got all his 12 into the match. It was bound to pile the pressure on Wilson whenever he was called on.
As they had in the morning, Mickelson and Kim came from three down to square matters, this time at the 13th when Mickelson got up and down from a fairway bunker.
Poulter and Rose remained two up with eight to go, but Westwood and Hansen were only one ahead when Holmes birdied the ninth and Mahan did the same to take him and Leonard two up again.
Foursomes (USA names first):
United States 3 Europe 1
Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim halved with Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson
Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan bt Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey 3 and 2
Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell bt Justin Rose and Ian Poulter 1 hole
Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk halved with Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia