Czech Republic and Spain ended the first day of the Davis Cup final level at 1-1 after Tomas Berdych defeated Nicolas Almagro in a five-set thriller to square the tie.
Twice the Spaniard fought back to level the match but it was not enough as Berdych proved just the stronger in the fifth to win 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-7 (7/5) 6-3.
It was a crucial point for the Czechs on home soil in Prague after world number five David Ferrer began the day by beating Radek Stepanek 6-3 6-4 6-4.
Berdych took the opening set with a break in the eighth game.
Almagro fought back to level but the momentum swung again at the start of the third as Berdych, against the run of play and fired up by a disagreement with umpire Carlos Ramos, won three games in a row. It was not plain sailing for the world number six but he held on to win the set, and then made a potentially decisive move at the start of the fourth.
Now Berdych appeared in complete control but he donated a break back in the sixth game and there was no way back when he lost the first five points of the tie-break.
Almagro was the player pushing for a break at the start of the decider but Berdych held on, and the crowd were on their feet when the 27-year-old broke to lead 4-2. Back came Almagro but Berdych made it three breaks in a row with a backhand planted onto the outside of the sideline and he took his first match point after three hours and 58 minutes when the Spaniard missed a return.
Ferrer was in the ascendancy from the start of his match and Stepanek needed all his fighting spirit to hold off his opponent in a sixth game that featured seven break points and lasted more than 20 minutes.
But in his next service game the 33-year-old Czech's resistance was broken as he threw in his fourth and fifth double faults of the set, which Ferrer duly took.
Stepanek retrieved an early break in the second set but there were no wobbles from Ferrer, who moved ahead again and was on the brink of victory at 5-2 in the decider. Stepanek managed one last hurrah with a break back but Ferrer made no mistake when he served for victory for a second time, and the Spaniard felt things could not have gone any better.