Roger Federer brought Novak Djokovic's 43-match winning run to a sensational end Friday as the Swiss legend reached a fifth French Open final and a fourth Paris title showdown with five-time champion Rafael Nadal.
Federer, the 2009 winner, stunned the world number two Serb 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), a victory which not only shattered Djokovic's hopes of making a first Roland Garros final, but also stalled his bid to take over as world number one.
World number three Federer, whose last Grand Slam final had been at the 2010 Australian Open where he wrapped up a 16th major title, sealed a memorable win with his 18th ace in a tie which finished at 2135 (1935GMT) in gathering gloom.
Having reached his sixth Roland Garros semi-final playing a carefree brand of no-pressure tennis, he also left Djokovic one win short of matching John McEnroe's 1984 record of a 42-match unbeaten start to a season.
"I had nerves and this wasn't even the final," said the 29-year-old Federer.
"I have worked a lot in my life and it's for these types of matches. It was certainly one of my greatest matches in an extraordinary atmosphere."
In a rollercoaster of a first set, Djokovic was surprisingly broken in the first game, distracted by the commotion in the crowd behind him caused when a spectator collapsed.
But the Serb was back on level terms for 1-1 with a break back before fighting off four break points on his next serve to hold for 2-1.
A huge inside-out backhand gave Djokovic another break for a 4-2 lead but Federer, with a roar of emotional support behind him, stormed back, retrieving the break and holding to love for 4-4.
Federer saved two set points in the 11th game before Djokovic, furious at being handed a time violation by French umpire Damien Dumusois, got the better of a gruelling 27-shot rally to hold and lead 6-5.
The Swiss, who had converted just two of 10 break points in the opener, held to send the set into a tiebreak which he claimed when Djokovic netted a forehand after 70 minutes on court.
Federer fought off two break points in the first game of the second set and broke Djokovic to lead 3-1 when the Serb, clearly unsettled and distinctly under par, ballooned a forehand long.
A rattled Djokovic soon trailed 4-1 and then needed to fight off four break points in the sixth game to keep his campaign on track before Federer, nerveless on serve, stretched his advantage to 5-2.
The world number two was close to breaking point and fought off five set points in the eighth game.
But the 29-year-old Federer was soon two sets to love ahead when a weary Djokovic netted.
Under siege, Djokovic had given up a further 12 break points in the second set with Federer crucially converting the only one he needed to do in the fourth game.
However, showing the fight which has brought him seven titles in 2011, Djokovic carved out the only break of the third set in the second game on his way to cutting the deficit.
Serve dominated in the fourth set as the sky over Paris became increasingly darker, before Djokovic unleashed a brutal service return to break for a 5-4 lead.
In an enthralling conclusion, Federer hit back for 5-5 and fought off two break points to nip ahead at 6-5 before Djokovic held for a tie break.
The Serb saved two match points but was powerless to keep out the Swiss star's 18th ace which sealed the semi-final after 3hr and 39mins of enthralling action.