Andy Murray survived a stern examination of his world number one credentials from Fernando Verdasco to reach the third round of the BNP Paribas Masters.
Murray needs to at least reach the final in Paris to stand a chance of overhauling Novak Djokovic on Monday and becoming the first British player ever to be ranked number one in singles.
That looked highly unlikely when a weary Murray faced two break points at 5-5 in the deciding set against an inspired opponent, but the Scot held on and ground out a 6-3 6-7 (5/7) 7-5 victory.
It was a 16th win in a row for the 29-year-old, who is bidding for a fourth straight title after winning trophies in Beijing, Shanghai and Vienna last week.
Andy Murray took a step closer to overtaking Novak Djokovic as world number one by winning his third successive title at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna.
The Scot defeated Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3 7-6 (8/6) in the final to add to the titles he won in Beijing and Shanghai earlier in October.
Murray will top the rankings for the first time in his career if he wins next week's Masters event in Paris, and Djokovic fails to reach the final.
It has been a remarkable last six months for Murray, who has now won seven titles, the most in a season in his career, and lost just three matches since the French Open in June.
Andy Murray closed in on world number one Novak Djokovic after winning his sixth title of the year with victory at the Shanghai Masters.
The Scot beat Roberto Bautista Agut, Djokovic's semi-final conqueror, 7-6 (7/1) 6-1 in 96 minutes to extend his winning run to 10 matches after triumphing at the China Open in Beijing a week ago.
Victory in Shanghai, Murray's 41st career title, cut the gap to Djokovic to 915 points.
The first set went with serve until Murray broke his Spanish opponent to take a 4-3 lead but when Bautista Agut broke back and then made it 6-5, Murray took the first set to a tie-break with a love game.
He cruised through the tie-break 7-1 to make it 19 sets won in a row before three breaks of service, to his opponent's one, in the second set eased the Briton into a 5-1 lead from where he closed out the match with a number of 100mph second serves and powerful groundstrokes.
World number two Andy Murray recovered from a slow start to surge into the final of the China Open with victory over Spain's David Ferrer on Saturday.
Murray was a break down in the opening set before hitting back to win the next five games in a row on his way to a 6-2 6-3 win in exactly 90 minutes in Beijing.
The 29-year-old will face Grigor Dimitrov in Sunday's final after recording his seventh consecutive victory over Ferrer, who ultimately lacked the firepower to upset the top seed.
Ferrer, who lost to Murray in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January, broke for a 2-1 lead in the first set but was immediately broken back to love.
Consecutive double faults then gave Murray three more break points in the sixth game and although Ferrer saved two, a backhand which drifted over the baseline gave Murray a 4-2 lead.
Another break of serve saw Murray take the opening set after 48 minutes and the double Olympic champion raced into a 3-1 lead in the second before surprisingly losing his serve.
However, that proved to be a momentary lapse in concentration and Murray immediately broke Ferrer's serve once more before wrapping up an impressive win.
"I did well," Murray said on the ATP website. "I was obviously 2-1 down with a break in the first set. Even the period in the second set where he came back a bit, when he broke me, there was a lot of long points. Really good tennis I thought."
World number two Andy Murray praised compatriot Kyle Edmund after defeating his Davis Cup team-mate 7-6 (11/9) 6-2 in the quarter-finals of the China Open.
Murray edged a tight first set in a tie-break and trailed 2-0 early in the second, but reeled off six games in a row to set up a semi-final clash with Spain's David Ferrer, who beat Alexander Zverev in three sets.
"I know how good he (Edmund) is and the power that he has on the court," Murray said.
"I knew it was going to be a hard match today, he'd come though qualifying here and had a good win in the last round. He's playing really well and will be up at the top of the game soon.
"The first set was very tough and I was down an early break in the second. He generates a lot of power on the forehand side, it's one of the bigger weapons in tennis just now and that will continue to develop over the next few years the more matches he plays.
"In the biggest tournaments against the best players he's going to learn how to use that shot more and more."
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Great Britain fought hard to keep alive the defence of their Davis Cup title, but could not quite pull off a comeback against Argentina in Glasgow.
Trailing 2-0 on Friday after singles defeats for Andy Murray and Kyle Edmund, the chances of Leon Smith's team reaching a second successive final looked slim indeed.
But the Murray brothers won the doubles on Saturday and Andy defied a leg injury to defeat Guido Pella 6-3 6-2 6-3 in the opening match on Sunday.
So the tie came down to a clash between Dan Evans and Leonardo Mayer, and it was the Argentinian who prevailed 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4.
Evans would have expected to face Juan Martin del Potro, conqueror of Murray in five hours on Friday, but the former US Open champion hinted on Saturday he was not prepared to risk his fragile body.
Andy Murray beat Guido Pella despite an injury to send Great Britain's Davis Cup semi-final against Argentina to a deciding fifth rubber.
After more than eight hours of tennis already in this tie and on the back of a gruelling summer, it was amazing the world number two even had the energy to drag himself onto the court at Glasgow's Emirates Arena.
But, with the atmosphere having stepped up yet another notch, he did a lot more than that and raced to a 6-3 6-2 6-3 victory over an outclassed Pella.
On the face of it, it was straightforward, but Murray spent much of the third set wincing and needed an off-court injury time-out.
World number 49 Pella had been impressive in defeating Kyle Edmund on day one to give the visitors a 2-0 lead but Murray ruthlessly exploited his lack of weapons.
The victory, which took two hours and 11 minutes, meant Britain's hopes of a second successive Davis Cup final rested on the shoulders of Dan Evans.
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