The world No.1 lost five straight games from 4-1 up in the third set but responded emphatically to win 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0, thereby guaranteeing he will stay top of the rankings after the tournament.
Djokovic was unhappy that the floodlights were put on during the third set and that appeared to affect his focus. At set-point down, he was given a code violation for swearing by umpire Damien Dumusois, responding with a sarcastic thumbs up.
Of his overall performance, Djokovic said: “Other than the little letdown that I had when I was 4-1, 4-2 up in the third set, I thought I played well, especially in the fourth set.
“At 4-1, I was agitated. It should not happen to me. I know better. I have experience. But it does happen, I guess. I allowed him to come back into the match.”
Regarding the issue with the lights, Djokovic said: “I just felt with such a low position of the sun, the lights being switched on at 5pm was completely unnecessary. It was very bright. But the explanation that I got from the supervisor was that TV requested that. Whatever TV says, we have to respect I guess.”
Djokovic will next play Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who is through to the last 16 at a slam for the first time after beating David Goffin in straight sets.
Fourth seed Alexander Zverev also breached new ground in Melbourne, seeing off Australian wild card Alex Bolt 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. He will next face Milos Raonic while Kei Nishikori, Borna Coric and Pablo Carreno Busta also won.
In the women’s draw, world No.1 Simona Halep insisted she will have nothing to lose when she takes on Serena Williams in the fourth round.
After battling through two tough opening rounds against Kaia Kanepi and Sofia Kenin, Halep knew she would have to step things up against Venus Williams and she did so impressively in a 6-2, 6-3 victory.
In what must surely be the toughest draw a top seed has ever faced, Halep now finds herself taking on Serena, who has lost only nine games in three matches and demolished 18-year-old Dayana Yastremska 6-2, 6-1.
Halep may have the No.1 next to her name but she has won only one of her nine previous meetings with Serena and feels she goes in as the underdog. The Romanian said: “In my opinion, to be No.1 in the world and to be the best player in the world, it’s a little bit different. In this moment, I’m No.1 in the world, so I will take that. But, for sure, she’s the best player in the world because she won so many grand slams. She’s been a lot at No.1. I cannot compare my results to her.”
While the favourite continued to steamroller her way through the draw, Naomi Osaka and Elina Svitolina both survived serious scares to reach the last 16.
Osaka was a set and 4-1 down to the tricky Hsieh Su-wei before winning 11 of the last 12 games in a 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 victory. She next faces 13th seed Anastasija Sevastova.
Svitolina was arguably even closer to the exit door against Zhang Shuai. The sixth seed trailed 3-0 in the third set before coming back to lead 5-3, eventually winning 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in almost three hours.
Garbine Muguruza backed up her late-night win over Johanna Konta by seeing off Timea Bacsinszky 7-6 (7-5), 6-2.