Andy Murray stands one more win away from being crowned world No 1 for the first time after a straight-sets victory over Tomas Berdych at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris.
Murray saved seven points in an extraordinary second set tie-break before eventually going on to overcome the Czech 7-6 (11/9), 7-5 and book his place in the semi-finals.
Victory on Saturday over his next opponent - either Milos Raonic or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - will be enough to lift Murray to the summit after current rankings leader Novak Djokovic suffered a shock straight-sets loss to Marin Cilic.
Djokovic – for whom a place in his fourth consecutive final would have been enough to guarantee top spot for a 123rd consecutive week – was beaten 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) by the feisty Croatian.
If Murray felt any extra pressure to perform after Djokovic’s departure it did not show in a powerful opening set until the Czech seized control in the breaker, fashioning five set points after racing into a 6-1 lead.
But the Scot clawed his back to level at 6-6 and would save two more set points - one after a bizarre double-fault - before swatting away a fine forehand to finally put the opener to bed.
It seemed all over for Berdych when Murray roared out for the start of the second set and took advantage of his second break point to immediately break and move closer to victory.
Murray’s relentless ground strokes were clearly having an effect on his opponent but, out of nowhere, an apparently flagging Berdych grasped his last chance to break Murray back when he served for the match.
Murray brushed himself off and responded by immediately breaking back himself - then completed victory on his third match point opportunity after blasting down back-to-back aces.
Djokovic’s hold on the world No 1 position had looked increasingly precarious after he had required treatment on a knee injury on his way to an unconvincing last-16 win over Grigor Dimitrov on Thursday.
And Cilic proved a match too far, never relinquishing the advantage he gained by dispatching his second set-point chance.
Cilic missed two break-point chances for a 2-0 lead in the second set and looked like he could rue his missed opportunity when Djokovic broke to serve for it at 5-4.
But the Serbian produced two double faults as he allowed Cilic to break back, before moving to the brink of defeat again when Cilic gained two match points at 6-5.
Djokovic saved both of them as he forced a tie-break, but the Croatian was in no mood to let his chance slip again as he cruised through the breaker.