Good Evans! GB rock Russians
Great Britain fought back from 2-0 down in a Davis Cup tie for the first time in 83 years to defeat Russia 3-2 on Sunday.
The stunning win set up the chance for GB to return to the World Group later this year.
The hosts looked dead and buried on Friday after five-set defeats for Dan Evans and James Ward at Coventry's Ricoh Arena but Colin Fleming and Jonny Marray kept the tie alive with victory in the doubles on Saturday.
That set the stage for Ward and Evans, who overcame a combined rankings deficit of 392 places to beat Dmitry Tursunov and Evgeny Donskoy, respectively, and secure one of the more remarkable results in British tennis history.
Two-time winners Russia were only relegated from the World Group last year for the first time in 20 years and, with Andy Murray making himself unavailable for a third successive tie, went in as huge favourites.
First Ward, ranked 214 to Tursunov's 67, recovered from two sets to one down to win 6-4 5-7 5-7 6-4 6-4 and send the tie into a decisive rubber.
That set the stage for Evans, who was the hero of Britain's victory over Slovakia last year with a five-set win in the fifth match.
Russia were a step up in class but this time Evans, ranked 325, needed only three sets, dominating world number 80 Donskoy virtually from the off and clinching a quite remarkable 6-4 6-4 6-1 victory inside two hours.
The British team celebrated as one on the court and, three years after a loss to Lithuania almost relegated them to Europe/Africa Group III, they stand on the brink of a return to the world's elite nations.
Murray has already committed to playing in September and Leon Smith's side will find out their opponents at the draw on Wednesday.
This was Donskoy's first Davis Cup tie and he had begun nervously against Ward before finding his form just in time to turn the match around.
It was a similar story today, with Evans again playing miles above his ranking as he broke to lead 4-3 when a return proved too hot for the Russian.
The British number six, from down the road in Birmingham, was coolness personified despite the huge prize at stake and served out the set to love.
He went ahead early in the second as well but the key moments of the match came in the middle of that set.
First Donskoy broke back, exploiting the first lax play by his opponent, and then Evans dug deep to save two more break points in his next service game.
He got his reward straight away, going 5-4 ahead with another drilled return and then moving to within one set of victory.
Evans kept his foot pressed firmly on Donskoy's throat by winning the first 11 points of the third set and quickly found himself 4-0 up.
Donskoy scrapped to get on the board but could offer no more than that, Evans clinching victory on his second match point.
All Ward's seven previous Davis Cup wins had come at Group II level and he was playing against a man who had won the Davis Cup and seven ATP Tour titles.
The 26-year-old also had to deal with the disappointment of Friday, where he was so close to beating Donskoy, but there was no hangover and Ward deservedly won the first set.
He had plenty of chances in the second, too, but could not take one and Tursunov made him pay by breaking to level the match.
Ward had an early lead in the third but was pegged back and, although he prevented the Russian serving it out, he could not take it to a tie-break.
At that point Britain's hopes really were hanging by a thread but, just when Ward needed it, he was given a lift when his opponent threw in two double faults to drop his serve.
Ward held on to his advantage to level the match before Tursunov again double-faulted to go behind in the fifth game of the decider.
Ward was not going to let the chance slip away and he served out confidently, clinching victory with his 33rd ace of the match after three hours and 30 minutes.
Ward put the match up alongside his first-round Wimbledon victory over Spain's Pablo Andujar last year as the best of his life, especially after Friday's heartbreaking loss.
He said: "It's got to up to there as one or two. Wimbledon's always special because it's the biggest tournament in the world. He was a top-30 player as well so that was special but this is just as much.
"It would have been very tough to take two five-set losses in a weekend, but it could have happened.
"I was two sets to one down against a guy who's been 20 in the world. If anything it's even more pleasing beating Tursunov. He's been a bit of a bogey man for me."
Captain Leon Smith played a key role, encouraging his man at every changeover - even if he was repeating the same message.
Ward said: "Today he said the same thing for five sets - he was boring me!
"You've got to keep believing and he did. He believes in me a lot, I know that, and I'm grateful to him for the opportunity to play again. He wanted heart and desire and I think I showed that."