Dubai - Benoit Paire fought off four match points at the Dubai Championships on Tuesday, overhauling former US Open winner Marin Cilic 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7/1) to reach the second round.
The bearded French eighth seed appeared all but finished as Croatian Cilic served for a straight sets win leading 5-3 in the second set after taking the first.
But Paire broke as he clung on and then won the set in the opening match of the day played in 29C desert conditions.
"It was not easy today. I was not confident before the match. Normally when it's one set, 5-3, I normally tank," Paire said.
"This time I tried until the end. It was working good. I'm really happy about the win.
"I was not feeling really good on court. I was a little bit sick (the last) two, three days. But I was happy to win today and to fight until the end."
Paire, who lost to Cilic at the second round of last month's Australian Open, recovered from a break down in the final set and saved match points in the 12th game to take it into a tiebreaker.
Paire was untouchable, sprinting to five match points and converting on the second as Cilic double-faulted for a 10th time.
Paire improved to 9-6 for the season and will play countryman Richard Gasquet next.
Two-time Dubai quarter-finalist Cilic, who won at Flushing Meadows in 2014, had won their last five meetings.
Second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who lifted the Marseille title at the weekend, faces Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta later on and fourth seed Fabio Fognini plays Britain's Dan Evans.
Other Tuesday winners included qualifiers Dennis Novak of Austria and Japan's Yasutaka Uchiyama.