It was the kind of tennis that Wimbledon's centre court crowd would gladly have watched all night long.
The show being put on by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was so good it could have been an instant classic — had they been able to finish their semi-final before the All England Club's official 11pm curfew.
Instead, the two players — and a disappointed audience — were sent home after the third set on Friday with Djokovic leading 6-4 3-6 7-6 (11-9) after a tense tiebreaker that had more entertaining rallies than some entire matches.
When Djokovic converted his second set point in the tiebreaker — having saved three of Nadal's — the clock had ticked a couple of minutes past 11.
That left organisers no choice but to call it a night, although the announcement from the chair umpire led to a scattering of boos from some fans who clearly wanted more.
Most of them will have to watch the rest on television on Saturday.
After the epic six-hours-and-36-minute semi-final encounter won by Kevin Anderson over John Isner, Spanish second seed Nadal did not hit the first serve of his match against 12th-seeded Djokovic until 8.09pm.
The next serve of the match will be at 1pm on Saturday, which is likely to delay the start of the women's final between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber.
At stake is a place in Sunday's men's final against Anderson, the man who was partly at fault for keeping Nadal and Djokovic out there so late after the South African eighth seed outlasted Isner 7-6 (8-6) 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (9-11) 6-4 26-24 in the second-longest match in professional tennis history.
However, Djokovic-Nadal was the headline act of the day — they have five Wimbledon titles between them and met in the 2011 final — while Anderson and Isner had never made the semi-finals before.
And the tennis served up in their 52nd encounter was at another level from the earlier match.
Even Anderson said he could feel during his match that the crowd would rather be watching the next one.
"They've paid to see two matches, and they came pretty close to only seeing one match," Anderson said.
"I can feel the crowd (get) pretty antsy for us to get off the court. They've been watching us for over six hours."
Djokovic and Nadal repeatedly slugged it out from the baseline, chasing down the seemingly impossible and hitting spectacular winners from every corner.
Many of the best points came in the tiebreaker, including a 23-shot rally that Nadal finished off with a forehand half-volley drop shot to set up his first set point.
It was one of three successful drop shots from the Spaniard in the tiebreaker alone but Djokovic answered with one of his own to save the second set point at 7-6.
He eventually went up 10-9 with the help of a backhand passing shot and an errant shot into the net by Nadal brought the entertainment to an end — for now.
It led to the unusual situation of both players leaving the court to a huge ovation — and applauding the fans in return — but without there being a clear winner or loser.