Andy Murray kept his hopes of becoming world number one this week alive by passing a major test from Fernando Verdasco to reach the third round of the Paris Masters.
Murray needs to reach the final in the French capital this week to have any chance of ending Novak Djokovic's long stay at the top of the rankings, but was in danger of making a shock early exit before recovering to win 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 on Wednesday.
The second seed will be world number for the first time in his career if he reaches the final and Djokovic fails to make it through the last four, or he is crowned champion by beating any opponent other than the 12-time grand slam champion.
Murray had won 11 of his 12 previous meetings with Verdasco, but the three-time grand slam champion's frustration mounted as the Spaniard caused him all sorts of problems and threatened to beat him for only the second time.
The unseeded Verdasco prowled around the court like a man possessed, coming up with an array of classy winners, but Murray refused to be beaten and pumped his fist at saving two break points for a decisive hold to lead 6-5 in the final set.
Brit Murray, eyeing a fourth consecutive tournament victory, then broke to love to overcome a major scare and set up a third-round match against Lucas Pouille.
Verdasco charged off the court knowing an opportunity had passed, paying the price for making 60 unforced errors and only taking three of his 11 chances to break.