World number one Rafael Nadal dug his way out of deep trouble to gain revenge over his 2012 Wimbledon conqueror Lukas Rosol.
Nadal was a set down and 5-3 behind in a second-set tie-break but recovered from that threatening position to win 4-6 7-6 (8/6) 6-4 6-4 on Centre Court.
At this stage two years ago, the two-time former Wimbledon champion suffered a harrowing five-set defeat at the hands of the big-serving Czech, then the world number 100.
For an hour or so on Thursday afternoon a repeat was possible, with Nadal rocking.
However the Spaniard – aiming to match Bjorn Borg’s open era feat of winning at both Roland Garros and the All England Club in the same season on three occasions – produced a high-quality response to level the match and force early breaks in sets three and four.
Rosol’s brave challenge was finally ended after two hours and 44 minutes.
Nadal said: “It was very important, the second set. To play against a player like Rosol, two sets down, big server, it would have been big, big danger.
“I don’t play for revenge. Every match is a different match. Today was another match and I tried to win. My goal was not Rosol. My goal was to try to play well. It doesn’t matter if it’s Rosol or another player who beat me in the past or not.
“I think I had a good answer after big trouble between the first and second set.”
Nadal had beaten Rosol when they met on the hard courts of Doha at the start of the year, the Spaniard going on to win the ATP title there.
With Pippa Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister, watching from the Royal Box along with Great Britain Olympic gold medallists Sir Steve Redgrave, Denise Lewis and Jonathan Edwards, Nadal had looked confident early on as he pulled out a range of passing shots as the first set went with serve early on.
Nadal, who had not reached Wimbledon’s third round since 2011 having lost his opening match last year against unheralded Belgian Steve Darcis, faced two break points in the ninth game following a double fault.
The Spaniard saved them both with winners but later hit a low return into the net to hand Rosol a 5-4 lead and the chance to serve for the set, which the world number 52 did to love.
Rosol had won only two grand slam matches since his famous victory over Nadal two years ago, but did reach the final of the ATP 250 event in Bucharest during April.
The 6ft 5ins Czech continued to thunder down serves of 120 miles per hour, which Nadal just could not deal with.
The Spaniard then lost his own service to love as Rosol, growing in confidence, held comfortably to move 4-2 ahead. However, Nadal dug deep to rally back, pumping his fist to the crowd as he moved 30-love up in the eighth game.
A long return handed the number two seed three break points, which he secured at the second attempt to level the set, 4-4, with both men holding serve to bring up the tie-break.
Rosol broke to lead 5-3, but Nadal responded to save a set point.
The world number one kept the pressure on at 7-6, and then levelled the match following a double fault by Rosol, as perhaps the occasion was finally getting to the big Czech.
Nadal forced a couple of break-point chances in game three of the third set, one after a superb return to flick over a drop shot, and seized a lead that he refused to let slip.
The world number one maintained his momentum to break to love in the first game of set four, soon surging 3-1 up. After saving a break chance when serving for the match, Nadal eventually claimed victory at the third time of asking when Rosol’s return was long.
Next for him will be Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan in round three after he beat lucky loser Frank Dancevic in straight sets.