Six breaks of serve resulted in a second-set tie-break before Andy Murray overcame Mikhail Kukushkin in straight sets at Wimbledon.
Andy Murray averted a near second-set collapse to overcome Kazakhstan"s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 in round one at Wimbledon
The number three seed took the first set by breaking Kukushkin"s serve in the 10th game, but there would be nothing so routine about the second.
Both men served for the set and failed to close it out as a total of six dropped service games resulted in a tie-break, which Murray dominated to take 7-3.
A solitary break in the fifth game was enough for the recent Queen's winner to take set three, but it was a performance that threw up plenty of questions over the 28-year-old"s credentials to regain the championship he memorably claimed in 2013.
Murray smoothly eased himself into the match, negotiating a brief scare in the seventh game when a 40-0 lead slipped to deuce.
The opener stayed on serve until Murray exerted decisive pressure on Kukushkin at 5-4 - a double fault bringing about the first set point.
The Kazakh would save two, the second with a rasping backhand down the line, but he showed frailties slipping in when he netted off the same wing to hand Murray the first set.
Kukushkin responded to Murray's early 3-0 lead in the second with a magnificent forehand pass on the run, inspiring a hold and he broke back next up for 2-3.
The world number 59 coughed up another break tamely in the following game, but was almost allowed back in at 15-40 when Murray served to go 5-2 ahead - displaying the sort of vulnerability that would fully emerge with set two within touching distance.
At 5-3 and 30-0 an extended lead appeared a formality, only for the Scot to slip to 30-40 and be pushed back to net a backhand slice.
There was worse to come for the Centre Court faithful as the home favourite required an ace to arrest 0-30 at 5-5. Kukushkin would not be denied and a stunning forehand service return winner had the underdog serving to level the match.
Like Murray, Kukushkin was two points from the set at 30-0 before being drawn into the protracted baseline battles the world number three relishes. He netted twice in succession to herald the tie-break.
Murray retrieved a fine drop volley on the charge to go 3-0 ahead in the breaker and bring the crowd to their feet. In keeping with a bizarrely fluctuating set, he passed up two set points - the first with a double fault - before Kukushkin sent a forehand long.
Murray broke decisively for 3-2 in the third. The frustrating slips of the second set would not resurface until a double fault gave Kukushkin break points at 15-40, but Murray slammed the door shut to progress.