Roger Federer laid on a world-class comeback from two breaks down to keep his dream for a first-ever French Open title alive on Thursday, fighting off Jose Acasuso 7-6 (10-8), 5-7, 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 to reach the third round.
Novak Djokovic was stranded at a set each when his match with Sergiy Stakhovsky was halted 6-3, 4-6 with the fall of darkness after the Serb failed to consolidate his lead.
A three-and-a-half hour struggle finally turned as Federer recovered trailing Acasuso 1-5 in the third set to break the will of a burly Argentine opponent aiming for the upset of his life.
The victory marked the 34th for 13-time Grand Slam winner Federer at Roland Garros and his fourth without a loss against number 45 Acasuso.
"Coming through such a match is always a great feeling," said Federer. "I'm not part of such close matches that often. So when they happen, it's great to put in the fight when you can. I was happy with my performance today, the stats actually looked pretty good.
"I just had to stay calm with all the ups and downs in the first three sets."
The Swiss needed 66 minutes to lift the first set in a tiebreaker where he saved four Acasuso set points. But the South American specialist struck back to take the second and looked well on his way in the third up a pair of breaks before Federer began figuring out a way to win.
The second seed made it into a tiebreaker, winning for a 2-1 lead on sets and then crushed Acasuso's spirit in the final chapter on a grey, chill day.
"I like easy matches, but it's also nice to fight on these difficult matches, especially when you win. I have good experience here in Roland Garros on the centre court," said Federer.
"Physically speaking, I was fine, I was fit. I can't see any problem for the future, and the work I did over the last month is paying off."
Federer takes a 3-0 record into his next match with Paul-Henri Mathieu, who beat Pablo Andujar of Spain 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.
Argentine fifth seed Juan Del Potro had it easy in his hammering of Serb Viktor Troicki 6-3, 7-5, 6-0 while number six Andy Roddick continued his progress to duplicate his career-best at the venue, reaching the third round 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2), over Czech Ivo Minar.
Ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga gave France a win, beating Juan Monaco 7-5, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (10-8); Russian tenth seed Nikolay Davydenko completed a match halted by darkness as he beat Diego Junqueira, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2.
Gael Monfils made it a double for ths hosts, stopping Romanian Victor Crivoi 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.
On the women's side, both Williams sisters won, Venus coming through a leftover from the night before halted by darkness, saving a match point before completing a hard-earned 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 7-5 victory over Lucie Safarova
Serena, the 2002 champion who has had little success since, defeated Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-2, 6-0.
2004 finalist Elena Dementieva advanced as Australian Jelena Dokic left the court in tears after being struck by back pain, handing over a 2-6, 3-4 win to the Russian. "I had the match in my hands and was playing the best tennis of the year," said the red-eyed 26-year-old.
Former number one Jelena Jankovic moved through winning 15 of the first 17 points in her rout of Slovak Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-1, 6-2.
Seventh seed Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russian was another easy winner, taking out Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakstan 6-0, 6-2.
It was similarly simple for Danish number 10 Caroline Wozniacki as she crushed American veteran Jill Craybas 6-1, 6-4.
The only seed to go out in early play was former Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli, with the French number 13 losing to Italian Tathiana Garbin, 6-3, 7-5.
Jankovic said she was pleased with her current form compared with only weeks ago.
"I think I'm coming back. This is the most important thing for me, especially when you saw me playing a few months ago," she said.
"It was really disastrous, I was moving terrible, making so many errors. My game was completely off, as well as my confidence."
The Serb is a two-time Roland Garros semi-finalist, reaching the last four over the past two years. She finished 2008 at number one but has since slid to fifth.