Greg Norman needs his International side to win eight out of 12 singles at Royal Melbourne tomorrow if they are to avoid a fourth successive Presidents Cup defeat.
With Tiger Woods finally opening his account for the week in the third day foursomes, the United States go into the final session with a commanding 13-9 lead.
Neither side has come back from such a deficit in the previous eight matches, although it is possible – America won the 1999 Ryder Cup in Boston from 10-6 behind.
Jim Furyk has been the star of the show so far, winning three times with Phil Mickelson and then with Nick Watney when Mickelson was surprisingly omitted from the afternoon fourballs – at his own request according to captain Fred Couples.
Woods was persevered with despite starting with two losses, the first of them a record 7&6 hammering, and Couples felt justified when his controversial wild card pick gained revenge over Adam Scott and KJ Choi.
That was with Dustin Johnson rather than Steve Stricker as his partner, but the same pair then suffered a shock loss to Koreans YE Yang and KT Kim – the two men Norman had rested from the morning action.
Kim, the least well-known player in the event, made Woods pay for some putting lapses as the Internationals mounted a fightback.
They had lost the foursomes 4-1 to trail 11-6 overall, but then took the first three games after lunch.
However, the American tail wagged well in the rain. Hunter Mahan and Bill Haas beat Australians Jason Day and Aaron Baddeley 2&1 and then Furyk and Watney overcame Adam Scott and Ernie Els on the final green.
Woods, without a tournament victory for over two years, had high hopes of double success on the day when he stood over a long eagle chance on the 15th.
But he three-putted after Kim had rolled in a 28-footer for birdie and, one down rather than one up, Woods missed 16-foot chances to level on the last two greens and Kim’s closing five-footer clinched the point.
The former world number one will prefer to remember what happened in the morning. Level with six to play he and Johnson won the 13th, 14th and 16th, with Woods ending the contest by holing from almost 18 feet.
As on Thursday he shook hands, but no more with Scott’s caddie Steve Williams, whose racist comment about his former boss in China a fortnight ago had given their clashes this week an extra edge.
Furyk and Mickelson are the only two unbeaten players in the match, America’s lead-off pair Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson being beaten 2&1 by Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel as they tried to make it four wins out of four.
The home crowd thought they might see Baddeley and Day bring their side back into the match even more when the latter holed from 32 feet at the 17th, but Mahan followed him in from almost 25 feet.
As the man who lost the Ryder Cup last year, you could see how much it meant to Mahan – he might also have been fired up after a spectator tried to put him off on the second day – but he still has the singles to come and that is where the agony was against Graeme McDowell.
Mahan has not been given the anchor role again. He goes out fifth in the singles and finds himself up against Day once more.
Woods is left until 11th and will play Baddeley, one of Norman’s wild cards who has also won only one of his four games so far.
Furyk will try to make it five wins out of five against Els and Mickelson four out of four against Scott.
Unlike the Ryder Cup, a tie is not good enough for America to retain the trophy. If the match finishes 17-17 it will be shared.
Yang, put out last by Norman, might have been hoping he would face Woods again rather than Stricker, having also beaten him to become Asia’s first male major champion at the 2009 USPGA.
“Having it over Tiger is an added perk, definitely,” he said.
“It’s nothing personal, but hopefully it’s a continuing streak.”
Kim said: “When I heard I was being paired with Tiger (in the fourballs) I was a bit nervous, especially because I have not been playing well the last two days.
“I felt a lot of pressure, but we trusted each other and that’s probably the main reason why we won.”
Norman said: “Nobody gave them a chance, but they really took it up to them.”
Scott said: “It’s going to have to be a remarkable day, but we have a shot at it. That’s all we ask for – it’s not over.”