LILLE, France (AP) Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert kept French hopes alive in the Davis Cup final with a 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (3) win over Croatia's Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic in the doubles on Saturday.
Croatia now leads France 2-1 as it chases its first Davis Cup title since 2005.
Croatia headed into the second day of the final needing only more point against defending champion France after its singles players Borna Coric and Marin Cilic outplayed Jeremy Chardy and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, respectively, in straight sets on Friday and without conceding a single break of serve on the opening day.
On the indoor clay court installed at the Pierre Mauroy stadium in northern France, the script changed dramatically during a pulsating doubles match.
Dodig and Pavic had only a few chances in the first two sets. Herbert played aggressively and Mahut raised his game on important points, hitting a service winner in the fourth game of the opening set to deny Croatia's sole break chance in that set.
The Croatian pair gradually found its rhythm and made the most of Herbert's sudden dip of level on serve to force a fourth set. Pavic saved three match points with consecutive big serves in the 10th game but the hosts played solid tennis in the tiebreaker to prevail.
Chasing an 11th title in the team event, France is back in the final but still faces a big challenge. The French singles players looked out of their depths on Friday, casting doubt on the chances of a comeback in Sunday's reverse singles.
Cilic is set to face Chardy, with Coric playing Tsonga, although captains can change their lineups.
No team has overturned a 2-0 deficit in a final since Australia beat the United States in 1939.
Mahut and Herbert have lost just one match together in the Davis Cup - against Croatia two years ago. They broke for a 4-3 lead in the opener following a series of aggressive returns which put Dodig on the back foot. They sealed the first set after dropping just six points on their service games.
The French duo applied pressure on Dodig's serve in the ninth game of the second set and a return that hit the net cord gave France two break points. A second double fault from Dodig in that game sealed the break for the hosts, who held for the set.
Pavic missed an easy forehand volley at the start of the third set to drop his serve but the Croats did not go down without a fight. They took advantage of Herbert's mistakes to break back and then moved into a 5-3 lead after a thunderous forehand pass from the left-handed Pavic silenced the home crowd and the French paid the price for their mistakes at the net.
Herbert struggled again on his serve as the French looked on the verge of a collapse at the start of the fourth, but he fought through a 13-minute game. Under pressure on his next service game, Herbert once again found the ability to get out of trouble as a lob from Dodig bounced just inches out.
Trailing 0-40 on his serve with the French up 5-4 and facing jeers from French fans, the 25-year-old Pavic showed the nerves of a seasoned veteran. He turned toward the French supporters and gestured as if to ask them to make more noise. He then launched consecutive service winners to fend off three match points and hold with a drop volley.
But the French were more composed in the tiebreaker and earned three more match points after Dodig went long with a forehand, and Herbert produced a winning serve. Mahut converted the first match point with a fine reflex volley.
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