LONDON • Roger Federer put his global army of "Fed-Head" fans through the wringer for four nerve-shredding sets, before he kept alive his pursuit of a record eighth Wimbledon title with a 6-7 (4-7), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (11-9), 6-3 win over Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals yesterday.
Novak Djokovic's shock third-round exit had raised hopes that this could be the week when the Swiss finally ends his four-year hunt for an 18th Grand Slam title, as the Serb had been the only man to beat him at the Grand Slams over the past year.
However, all those expectations appeared to be heading for the dustbin as Cilic stood one point away from victory - not once, not twice but three times in a pulsating fourth set that had everyone on the edge of their seats.
Three huge serves kept Federer alive - just - and he then produced the kind of form, and outrageous shots, that has made him the most successful man in tennis by stealing the tie-break 11-9.
An ace on his first match point finished off the job and carried him into an 11th Wimbledon semi-final, and 40th overall in the Grand Slams.
The 34-year-old also claimed a new record for Grand Slam match wins of 307.
Men’s q-finals: Roger Federer (Sui) bt Marin Cilic (Cro) 6-7 (4-7), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (11-9), 6-3 , Milos Raonic (Can) bt Sam Querrey (USA) 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4.
His dramatic triumph was his 84th win at Wimbledon - taking him level with American great Jimmy Connors - and gave him a last-four meeting against Canada's Milos Raonic, who ended Sam Querrey's surprise run to the last eight with a 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 win .
Now coached by former Wimbledon champion John McEnroe, Raonic blitzed the American, who had knocked out Djokovic in the third round, to enter his second Wimbledon semi-final.
In a thrilling Centre Court confrontation, Federer recorded his 10th career comeback from two sets down. He fired 27 aces and 67 winners to avenge his semi-final loss to ninth seed Cilic in the semi-finals of the 2014 US Open.
"Marin is such a wonderful player and I knew I was in so much trouble in the third set and in the fourth," said the Swiss legend. "He was playing very well and reading my serve and I couldn't read his.
"I just tried to stay in the match and hoped for his level to drop and get a bit lucky. That happened and obviously the breaker was crazy.
"My legs and back were there and serving was key, plus mentally this will give me a hell of a boost."
With his coach and 2001 champion Goran Ivanisevic looking on, Cilic looked to have Federer on the ropes, forcing the Swiss into saving three break points in the seventh game of the third set.
But Federer grabbed the lifeline when a fifth double fault by Cilic gave him a first break of the contest, before he unleashed a textbook backhand drive to secure the set in the next game.
The fourth set, lasting just under an hour, veered from one drama to another. Cilic sent down his 19th and 20th aces of the afternoon to save break points in the fifth game.
Federer then saved match point in the 10th game, thanks to Cilic meekly going long on a return and another with his 18th ace in the 12th.
The Swiss squandered two set points in the tie-breaker, before he saved a third match point when Cilic netted a forehand of his own.
Then it was Federer's turn to feel the pressure as two more set points came and went, before Cilic played one loose forehand too many into the net and the semi-final was level.
Federer had the momentum and broke for a 5-3 lead in the decider, racing to a famous victory with back-to-back aces.