A dogged Somdev Devvarman scripted a spectacular victory over South Africa's Rik De Voest in a high-voltage marathon five-setter to clear India's passage to the elite Davis Cup World Group after a long wait of 11 years, in Johannesburg, on Sunday.
Somdev and Voest's tenacity engineered a prodigious tennis game, which the Indian won 3-6, 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-4 after an energy-sapping four hour and 38 minutes' battle at the Ellis Park indoor stadium.
The victory gave India an unassailable 3-1 lead.
In the fifth rubber, Yuki Bhambri was brought in to India's line-up to face Izak Van Der Merwe, and the youngster did not disappoint .
Playing in his first Davis Cup tie, Bhambri rallied in grand style to score a 3-6, 6-3- 6-4 victory and give India a 4-1 triumph.
India last played in the 16-team World Group in 1998, when it lost 1-4 to Italy. India reached the final of the World Group thrice but finished runners-up on all occasions.
Voest, a man on mission, played like a true champion, putting his heart and soul into the do-or-die match. But Somdev showed he had the class to beat champions.
Down by two sets, Somdev staged an incredible comeback as he overcame an early drop of serve to break Voest in the fourth game of the third set and go on to win it via the tie-breaker and keep India's challenge alive.
The prolonged battle started to take its toll on Voest, as his shots became feeble; unforced errors began to flow and Somdev gradually took control of the match. He raced to a 5-1 lead in the fourth set by breaking the South African twice.
The Indian wrapped up the set in the eighth game and it all boiled down to the fifth and decisive set.
A heart-stopping show followed in the final set as Somdev and Voest raised the level of the game by several notches. Every single point produced scintillating tennis.
Somdev broke Voest in the fifth game to take the decisive lead though he had a chance to break him in the first game as well.
The South African hung in, saving three points in the seventh game, but it was Somdev's day as he served out the set in the 10th game, converting his second match point.
Earlier, Somdev worked hard to set up points, but a determined Voest foiled those attempts with smart tennis. He got plenty of chances to break his opponent, but the South African did not let the Indian succeed.
Voest's strategy of attacking the net reaped rich dividends as his defence was almost unreachable.
The first chance came as early as in the second game of the opening set following a couple of unforced errors by Voest but Somdev could not convert that.
The South African though was not ready to the miss the chance when consecutive backhand and forehand errors by Somdev created a break chance for the hosts in the fifth game and Voest created a mini 3-2 lead.
Somdev was struggling to land his shots within the marked lines on crucial points and wasted as many as four chances in the eighth game.
A usually cool-on-court Somdev banged his raquet on the surface in frustration as a drop of serve in the ninth game handed Voest the first set.
After going down 0-3 in the second set, down-and-out-looking Somdev riposted and won three games in a row. It could have been four consecutive games for Somdev but a gritty Voest saved three break-points.
Then followed an exceptional game of tennis as Somdev and Voest played amazing rallies laced with some breathtaking shots. They fought as if their lives depended on those points. After eight deuces and saving a break point, Somdev held.
The Indian then broke Voest to get in a position to close the set, but Voest saved two set points, forced a tie-breaker in which he prevailed to give his team a 2-0 lead.