Russia's Dmitry Tursunov held off a valiant performance from Great Britain's Dan Evans in a five-set thriller to claim the opening rubber of the Davis Cup Group I encounter at the Ricoh Arena.
Turuanov led by two sets to one and a break before Evans staged a thrilling revival, claiming the fourth set, an opportunity created after stinging forehand return.
But the experienced ex-top 20 player held his nerve in the fifth and deciding set, breaking decisively in the fifth game before serving out to take the match 6-4 6-7 6-4 5-7 6-4 in just short of four hours of grueling tennis.
The win hands Russia a 1-0 advantage going into the second singles match of the day, but gives Britain heart that in a tie they were expected to be outplayed in, they have a realisitic chance of making an impression.
Evans, a late replacement for Jamie Baker, came into the contest against a veteran of 21 previous rubbers in the competition in Tusunov, as the huge underdog, but had the bonus of a home crowd in Coventry.
A former Davis Cup winner with Russia in 2006, Tursunov was the most experienced of Shamil Tarpischev's quartet, with Nikolay Davydenko out with a hand problem and much of the visitors' hopes of reaching the World Group Play-offs later this year relied on the 2009 AEGON champion.
But Evans, 22, made the faster start, setting up a break-point chance in the opening game but a netted backhand scuppered his chances of taking an early advantage.
Victories over Lukas Lacko and Martin Klizan in the February 2012 tie against Slovakia were evidence of Evans' capacity to surprise but he was stifled in the sixth game as four successive forehand errors allowed Tursunov to break.
But serving at 5-3 for the opening set, Tursunov showed why his status among the world's elite is nothing but a distant memory as Evans pounced on his indecision as Tursunov sent successive forehands crashing into the net and then beyond the baseline.
However, echoes of Evans' struggles away from Davis Cup duty reared their head as he attempted to level, as a forehand into the tramlines handed his Russian counterpart the opening set in fortuitous circumstances.
By the second set, Evans was showing signs at being at home amid a rumpus atmosphere but couldn't convert his increasing dominance into a lead, with three break point chances coming and going.
While players ranked higher than Evans' 325 would have folded, the Briton plugged away and broke deservedly at the very next opportunity as Tursunov again found the net on the forehand side.
As Evans continued to work for every point as Tursunov set up camp on the baseline, the Brit saved a break-back point in game seven. His resolve was snapped in game 10 however, as when serving for the match, Evans found the net with a running forehand before a double fault seemingly swung the contest back in Tursunov's favour.
In the resulting tiebreak, Evans again stormed into a lead; ahead at 3-0 and 5-2 he contrived to hand back the initiative until Tursunov found the tramlines as the match was leveled.
The decisive third set begun without incident but come the seventh game, Evans' composure evaded him and Tursunov, playing as solidly as ever during the match, benefited from a double-fault.
The 30 year old almost relinquished the position of strength as he served for the set but recovered from 15-40 to go two sets to one ahead.
An early Tursunov break in the fourth looked like turning the lights out in the opening rubber, but Evans rallied to break back for 2-2. In the ninth game however, despite having game point, the world No.68 created three break point chances. Evans saw them off without alarm to lead 5-4.
Instead of sauntering towards a tie-break the Moscow-born Tursunov tightened up, allowing Evans to force a set-point, but a blistering running backhand helped close out the 10th game.
Evans held himself to pile the pressure on Tursunov, and as a result crumpled under the pressure, as the GB player smashed a forehand passing shot before his opponent struck wide to set up an unlikely fifth set
A break in the opening game disrupted Evans' rhythm as Tursunov refocused but two break points came and went in game two, the second as the home favourite unleashed a deep forehand which beat the baseline.
Chances to break continued to present themselves in the very next Tursunov service game and after an instinctive net volley set up a triple break-point, Evans took the second of those to level the match once again.
As had been Evans' tendency throughout the match however, he again left himself with an uphill task as Tursunov staged another comeback breaking for a second time in the set for a 3-2 lead, an advantage cemented following a typically brutish overhead winner and a sweeping backhand cross-court effort.
And Evans was unable to call upon the resolve from the previous four sets as Tursunov finished the match with a flourish to take the final set 6-4.