New York:Venus Williams came with three points of a straight-sets defeat at the US Open on Monday before clawing her way back to edge Russia's Vera Dushevina 6-7 (5/7), 7-5, 6-3.
The American was a set and 4-5 down when she dropped the first point while serving to stay in the match.
But in a stunning turnaround she won the next four points and then took the next two games to force a deciding set that she eventually won to set up a second round encounter with fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
The seven-times Grand Slam tournament winner, seeded third behind sister Serena and Dinara Safina of Russia, got off to an edgy start by dropping her serve in the opening game.
At 1-2 down, she needed extensive courtside treatment for an injury to her left knee.
Williams immediately got the break back, though, and after six breaks of serve in total, the first set went to a tie-break which Dushevina won by taking the final four points.
The Russian went a break ahead to lead 3-1 in the second but Williams again pinned her back with a break of her own to level at 3-3.
Games went with serve until 5-5 when Williams turned up the pressure on the 22-year-old Russian to break serve again and she then served out to level the set scores.
That seemed to suck the confidence out of Dushevina and she was broken again to open the deciding set.
Williams pounced to move out into a 4-0 lead before Dushevina stopped the rot by holding her serve and then rubbed out one of the breaks thanks largely to two unforced errors from the American.
It was Williams's turn to look anxious as Dushevina got to 4-3, but her biggest weapon, her serve, helped her steady the ship in the next game and she sealed the win in the following game on her fifth match point.
"She played so well, moved so well and did so many things so well but I had so much help from the fans here," she said.
"I felt so much energy when I was serving to stay in the match in the second set.
"I am going to do my best to prepare for the next round. I'm tough."