London: Andy Murray kept Great Britain in the hunt for their first Davis Cup semi-final place in 34 years as he defeated France`s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to level the last eight tie at 1-1 on Friday.
Murray was under pressure to win the second singles rubber of the day on the grass courts of Queen`s Club in west London after Gilles Simon had given France the perfect start with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 rout of James Ward.
The world number three rose to the challenge with a hard-fought victory that left the quarter-final delicately poised heading into the doubles on Saturday, raising the possibility that Murray might be drafted in to play alongside his brother Jamie instead of Dominic Inglot.
With the prize of a last-four showdown against Australia or Kazakhstan in September up for grabs, Murray`s 22nd win from 24 Davis Cup singles matches ensured the tie won`t be decided until Sunday`s reverse singles.
Nine-time winners France, who finished as runners-up to Switzerland last year, are in the quarter-finals for a sixth successive season.
Britain haven`t beaten France in the Davis Cup since 1978 and, in the first meeting with their old rivals for 23 years, the hosts needed Murray at his best to remain in contention for a first Davis Cup semi-final berth since 1981.
It was Murray`s first match since his Wimbledon semi-final thrashing at the hands of Roger Federer last week -- a painful defeat the two-time Grand Slam champion admitted he had found hard to shake off.
But the 28-year-old Scot held a 10-2 record against world number 12 Tsonga, winning all four of their tour-level matches on grass including two at Queen`s Club, where he is a four-time champion.
And, after struggling with his footing in the early stages, Murray changed shoes and he gradually put Tsonga under the cosh, forcing the Frenchman to save a set point at 4-5 in the first set.
He kept applying pressure on Tsonga and earned two more set points at 5-6, finally taking the set at the third attempt with a brilliant backhand winner on the run.Tsonga`s huge serve and shot-making flair make him a dangerous opponent on grass and he hit straight back with a break in the opening game of the second set.
But Murray quickly recovered with a break of his own to level at 3-3.
That set the stage for a rollercoaster tie-break in which Murray saved three set points before converting his third opportunity to move into a two-set lead.
With the finish line in sight, Murray raised his game to a level that Tsonga couldn`t match, breaking in the first game of the third set before delivering the knockout blow with one more break.
Earlier, Ward -- ranked 78 places below world number 11 Simon -- found it impossible to handle the Wimbledon quarter-finalist`s subtle mix of ground-strokes.
"It was important to play Queen`s last month. It helps a lot to get the court in your head and feel good on it," said Simon, who reached the last four in the Wimbledon warm-up event at Queen`s.
"I was always on top of James on the scoreboard. I didn`t give him enough chances to play with the crowd."
With a vocal French presence in the crowd, there was a less partisan atmosphere than Britain have enjoyed during their recent matches indoors in Glasgow.
But Ward refused to blame the subdued support for his defeat.
"The French were pretty loud. But I didn`t give our crowd much to shout about," he said.
"Gilles moves very well. He`s pretty crafty. He puts the ball in places its not always easy to attack from."