Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal starred for the old establishment in a daytime double-feature at the Australian Open on Friday before two rising talents threatened to steal the show with a thrilling tussle under the bright lights of Rod Laver Arena.
Federer felled towering Croat Ivo Karlovic to follow Nadal into the last 16 and stay on collision course for a mouth-watering semi-final against the Spaniard who eased past Slovakian Lukas Lacko.
The real drama came later, however, when young home favourite Bernard Tomic edged a five-set classic against Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov to justify his prime-time billing.
After three hours and 49 minutes of tension-charged action, the rangy 19-year-old with nerves of steel emerged with a 4-6, 7-6, 7-
6, 2-6, 6-3 victory and the prospect of a fourth round battle with Federer.
“Tonight was a really good match and a match that I need to win," the Germany-born Tomic said in a courtside interview after knocking out the 13th seed. "I think the crowd made me win so thank you for coming and supporting me guys.”
On a day of almost total dominance for the seeds, 2009 champion Nadal raised the curtain at Rod Laver Arena with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 drubbing of Lacko.
Arriving in Melbourne with questions about his form, fitness and motivation, Nadal has not lost a set so far and never appeared in danger against his 119th-ranked opponent under overcast skies on centre court.
Only a low-flying bird swooping across the court stalled the Mallorcan's charge momentarily as Nadal set up a fourth-round clash with fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.
Lopez outlasted towering marathon-man John Isner in a five-set duel to leave the US without a single man in the last 16 of the Australian Open for the first time since 1973.
With Rod Laver Arena hogged by the men's contenders, Caroline Wozniacki's battle for credibility as the world number one continued on the second show court against 31st seed Monica Niculescu.
With three other players having a chance to snatch the top ranking after the dust settles at Melbourne Park, the Dane signalled she would not give up the prize without a fight as she steamrolled the Romanian 6-2, 6-2 in 76 minutes.
Victoria Azarenka, one of the three plotting a coup against Wozniacki, kept up the heat with a comfortable 6-2, 6-4 victory over Germany's Mona Barthel.
The Belarusian powerhouse lost her composure late on.
“Playing in the end, (I was) not brave enough to finish the match," said the third seed, who will play Czech Iveta Benesova in the fourth round.
“Had to get a little bit pissed off and kick myself, you know, and finally finished it.”