MONTE CARLO, Monaco - Italy's Davis Cup hero Fabio Fognini rediscovered his game just in time to produce a 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 comeback over Joao Sousa to progress to the Monte Carlo Masters second round on Monday.
The tenth seed who helped his nation into the Davis semi-finals over Great Britain a week ago, stood two points from defeat against a Portuguese opponent ranked 38th.
The colourful and explosive Fognini suddenly seemed to realise the seriousness of his situation and began pulling himself together.
The clay title-winner in Vina del Mar in February recovered from a set and 5-2 down, breaking back for 4-5 and levelling at five games apiece.
Fognini soon found another break and made it a set each in the nick of time.
He then broke for 5-3 in the third on the way to the face-saving victory in two hours, 20 minutes with the two players producing just one ace between them,
"I was able to play with more mental tranquility," said the winner, whose 22 victories in 2014 tie him for second alongside Marin Cilic with that pair trailing Roger Federer's 24.
"I wasn't playing my best tennis but I managed to win, I'm just glad to get through it. it was a very close win."
Spanish specialist Albert Montanes will line up in the second round against second seeded holder Novak Djokovic after sending Frenchman Benoit Paire home 7-5, 4-6, 6-2.
Paire is only just back from a left knee injury which kept him idle from the Australian Open until last week.
"I want to go home, I want to take care of my health, do my treatments, and practise," said Paire. "If the pain is not too bad, I'll play Barcelona (next week) and Oeiras.
"But I know this evening I'm going to feel a lot of pain in my knee."
Czech Radek Stepanek won a battle of 35-year-olds as he crushed Ivo Karlovic 6-1, 6-2 to next line up against fourth seed Federer playing the event for the first time since 2011.
German Philipp Kohlschreiber hammered Italian Simone Bolelli 6-3, 6-4 and will take on French ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga next. Czech Lukas Rosol beat Russian Evgeny Donskoy 7-5, 6-1.