Ice cool Novak Djokovic calmed Serbian nerves on Friday to level the Davis Cup final at 1-1 after team mate Janko Tipsarevic was thrashed by France's Gael Monfils in the Belgrade Arena.
Djokovic, whose country's hopes of winning the trophy for the first time rest heavily on his shoulders, outclassed Gilles Simon for a 6-3, 6-1, 7-5 victory played out to a soundtrack of beating drums and inflatable plastic batons.
Saturday's doubles which, barring tweaks by either captain, will be between Serbians Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki and French pair Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra now takes on enormous significance in the 98th edition of the team event.
Djokovic could even be used on Saturday, such is the world number three's importance to Serbia's cause.
"The best choice is to have two Novaks but that's impossible, so that's why I need to choose another player," Serbia captain Bogdan Obradovic told reporters.
Had there been two Djokovics on Friday Serbia would probably be well on their way to winning the title but as it turned out an expectant atmosphere in the 17,000-seater arena almost went flat as Tipsarevic imploded.
After traditional folk dancers provided the pre-match entertainment and choirs of children sang the national anthems the home fans settled back in the hope Tipsarevic would given their team a flying start.
The bearded world number 49 could hardly have started in worse fashion, however.
He began with two feeble double faults and the errors continued to pour from his racket during a 6-1, 7-6, 6-0 drubbing that left him fearing the axe for Sunday's reverse singles.
"That never happened to me in my life," Tipsarevic told reporters, referring to the double faults that had him staring at his strings in disbelief while his watching team mates shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
"Honestly, I don't know whether I should play (on Sunday) and what to expect, it's up to the captain."
Wild horses would not keep Djokovic away as the world number three, owner of a cafe-bar across the street from the stadium, gave a solid display against Simon who was selected by France captain Guy Forget for the second singles ahead of Llodra.
Djokovic broke serve after a marathon seventh game, whipping up the crowd with a huge fist-pump after his opponent netted an attempted pass.
Simon's never really posed a threat after that despite noisy backing from a 1,000-strong clump of flag-waving French fans all dressed in blue. Djokovic broke to love to take the first set before coasting through the second.
The Serb conducted the cheering crowd during the third set but the celebrations looked a little premature when he suffered a rare lapse, squandering two match points at 5-4 to allow Simon to extend the contest.
Djokovic, 23, hit back immediately and sealed the win in two hours 18 minutes to inflict France's first reverse in a 'live' rubber in this year's competition.
"When I dropped my level a little bit near the end and started making some mistakes the crowd got me up and I won.
"That's why it's important to have them on our side," Djokovic, who has won all six of his singles rubbers en route to the final, told reporters.
While the crowd were noisy and enthusiastic, there were none of the unsavoury incidents that occasionally wreak havoc at major sporting events in the land-locked Balkan nation, particularly at soccer grounds.
Only when Tipsarevic lost his cool over a line call at the start of the second set tiebreak against Monfils did the generally vibrant and good-natured atmosphere become more raucous, although it did not deter the Frenchman.
"The Serbian crowd is like a normal crowd," said Monfils. "I think it's more like the French press trying to build something up like crazy. I think the Serbians are very fair."