Johanna Konta’s spirited run at the Wuhan Open came to an end but not before she took Venus Williams the distance in a pulsating quarter-final.
Williams won the final four games to dig herself out of a hole and prevail 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in a match which took two hours and 40 minutes.
Konta, who stunned world No 2 Simona Halep on Wednesday, was serving for the match with a 5-3 lead in the final set.
But Williams – who struggled on her serve throughout – was able to channel her frustrations and take the win.
In the final balance, the margins were minimal as Williams won 107 points to Konta’s 106. Konta, ranked 66th in the world, pulled off the biggest win of her career when she came from 5-1 down in the deciding set to defeat Halep in the third round.
The 24-year-old, set to take over as Britain’s highest-ranked female next week, started in the same vein against Williams, carving out two break points at 15-40 in the opening game, only for Williams to hit back to hold.
Williams then led 40-0 on the Konta serve and duly moved 2-0 in front, but Konta hit back in the third game, taking the third of her three break chances as she whipped a forehand cross-court as her opponent raced to the net.
Williams broke again before moving into a 4-1 lead on her way to taking the set.
Williams, however, was struggling with her serve and continued to give Konta opportunities she was able to take in the second set.
Konta broke to take a 3-2 lead, and then broke Williams again to take the set 6-3.
Konta would strike first in the third too, surviving break point to go 2-1 up and then hitting Williams again for a 3-1 lead.
The American was visibly frustrated, both with herself, noise from the crowd, and some of the line decisions, but just when it looked as though her emotions would get the better of her, she channelled her anger into some punishing shots which quickly levelled it up at 3-3.
However, a double fault gave Konta another break chance in the eighth game and she took it at the second invitation, taking a 5-3 lead with a chance to serve for the match.
Again Williams rallied, going 40-15 up. A long cross-court shot was called out on the line to give Konta another life, but Williams ensured it was short-lived.
After Williams made it 5-5, it was Konta who began to feel the pressure as mistakes crept into her game and she began to hit her shots long.
With Williams on break point, a double fault by Konta made it 6-5 to the American and now it was her turn to serve for the match.
Konta took the first point, sending Williams to the umpire to complain about a noise from the crowd with the tension high.
Konta looked as though she could capitalise as she moved 40-15 up, but Williams rediscovered her serve and hit back to 40-40.
A brilliant little drop shot by Konta gave her an extra life with Williams on match point, but it only delayed the killer blow from Williams who breathed a huge sigh of relief upon sealing the win.