Paris - Belgian lucky loser David Goffin came within two points of taking a two sets to love lead against Roger Federer in the French Open fourth round on Sunday as a mighty upset appeared to be possible.
A set and 5-4 ahead, Goffin was 30-15 up on the Federer serve but was unable to get the two extra points he needed.
He was then broken for the first time in the match in the next game as the Federer fightback started, ending in a hard-fought 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 win.
The reward for Federer is a quarter-final clash with either Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina or Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.
"I came out of the qualifiers and I played my best tennis in my first three matches. Then playing Roger was the cherry on the cake," said 21-year-old Goffin.
"I won't hide the fact that I had photos of Roger everywhere on the walls of my bedroom. It was like a dream for me playing him here."
Federer paid tribute to his opponent saying: "I didn't know much about him beforehand, but I know him a lot better now."
The contrast between the two men at the start of the match could not have been greater.
Superstar Federer was out to reach his 32nd consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final, an Open Era record. He was also chasing a 17th Grand Slam title, and first since the 2010 Australian Open.
The world No 109 Goffin, who lost in the last round of qualifying, was bidding to become the first man to reach the last eight on his Grand Slam debut since Alex Radulescu at Wimbledon in 1996.
He was also the first lucky loser - an alternate on standby after being beaten in qualifying - to reach the last 16 of a major since countryman Dick Norman at Wimbledon in 1995.
The first signs that the match would not conform to what everyone expected of it appeared in the sixth game of the first set when Federer had to save three break points at 2-3 down.
He managed that, but after failing to put much pressure on Goffin's serve he found himself up against it once again at 5-6 down.
He saved two set points, but Goffin converted a third to huge applause from the Belgian fans gathered on the Suzanne Lenglen showcourt.
Goffin maintained the same punishing tempo in the second set, matching Federer in rally after rally and often getting the better of him.
The Belgian came within two points of going two sets up when he stood at 5-4 and 15-30 on the Swiss star's serve.
Two big serves helped Federer work his way out of that one and in the next game he got the break he was looking for as Goffin finally flung in a sloppy game with a double fault and a couple of unforced errors.
The third seed then squandered two set points in the next game and had to save a break back point before finally levelling the set scores.
Federer broke Goffin's serve again in the third game of the third set to move ahead in the match for the first time and another break to lead 5-2 confirmed that he was back in command.
Another double fault helped Federer break to start the fourth set and suddenly Goffin's brave challenge had deflated.
Latest results from the eighth day of the 2012 French Open at Roland Garros on Sunday (x denotes seeded player):
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Andreas Seppi (ITA x22) 4-6, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 7-5, 6-3
Roger Federer (SUI x3) bt David Goffin (BEL) 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4
Dominika Cibulkova (SVK x15) bt Victoria Azarenka (BLR x1) 6-2, 7-6 (7/4)
Sara Errani (ITA x21) bt Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS x26) 6-0, 7-5
Angelique Kerber (GER x10) bt Petra Martic (CRO) 6-3, 7-5