Andy Murray safely negotiated another bump in the road at the French Open with victory over Richard Gasquet to move to within two victories of a first title at Roland Garros.
The world No 2 looked in real trouble at a set and 3-1 down in the second-set tie-break but won six straight points and from there raced to a 5-7 7-6 (7/3) 6-0 6-2 victory.
Murray is through to his 19th grand slam semi-final overall, drawing him level with Stefan Edberg and John McEnroe, and fourth at the French Open, the only tournament at which he is yet to reach the final.
Having lost to nine-time winner Rafael Nadal twice and world No 1 Novak Djokovic in five sets last year, Murray finds himself this time facing defending champion Stan Wawrinka.
Murray has never won a set against Wawrinka on clay but they will play for the first time on the surface since the Scot became a real force last year.
Murray came into the tournament on the back of victory over Djokovic to win the Masters tournament in Rome and clearly fancies his chances of lifting the Coupe des Mousquetaires.
He said: “Last year was similar. I came in not having lost on the clay and played some really good tennis. I believe I can win the event. Whether I do or not, we’ll have to wait and see.
“But I believe it’s possible and only a couple of matches away now. I’ll just give everything I’ve got the next few days.”
Murray had plenty of reason to be confident going into his match against Gasquet given his phenomenal record against both home players at the slams and Frenchmen.
Murray’s only loss to a home player at Roland Garros came 10 years ago against Gael Monfils, while it is eight years and now 27 matches since he was beaten by a French player at one of the majors.
The Scot had expected a red-hot atmosphere, with Gasquet, once the great hope of French tennis, having finally made a quarter-final here at the 13th attempt.
But instead Court Philippe Chatrier was barely a third full when the players walked out, which perhaps contributed to Gasquet’s slow start.
Murray looked in complete control at 5-2 but he wobbled and Gasquet improved and the Frenchman promptly reeled off five straight games to take the set.
The pattern came close to being repeated in the second set, with Gasquet again coming from 5-2 down to level, although this time Murray withstood pressure to take it to a tie-break.
When he double-faulted to trail 3-1, it was not looking good, but, as he did in his five-set wins over Radek Stepanek and Mathias Bourgue in the first two rounds, Murray pulled himself back from the brink.
The silence was deafening after Murray won the tie-break, but he said: “I have played in worse atmospheres. For sure the crowd were behind him, but it wasn’t too bad.
“I was creating a lot of chances and I wasn’t taking them. That stretch of five or six points was huge from 3-1. I served a double fault at 2-1 in the tie-break, and then my next two serves were aces.
“I got a good contact on a return at 3-3, and I remember at 3-2 I hit a drop shot and he had a backhand which hit the tape. Those points there changed the match. I think I played some really good stuff today. Obviously the match could have been maybe more comfortable had I done a bit better serving out the first two sets.”
Wawrinka is looking in ominous form and eased past surprise quarter-finalist Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2 6-1 7-6 (9/7).
Djokovic cruised to victory over Roberto Bautista Agut, 3-6 6-4 6-1 7-5, to set-up a quarter-final against Tomas Berdych today.
The other quarter-final in the top half will be between two first-timers in David Goffin and Dominic Thiem.
Goffin defeated former semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis 4-6 6-2 6-2 6-3, while Thiem was a 6-2 6-7 (2/7) 6-1 6-4 winner over Marcel Granollers.
Defending champion Serena Williams won 6-1 6-1 against Elina Svitolina in the fourth round.
Williams next meets Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva, who upset 12th seed Carla Suarez Navarro 7-5 7-5.