Superstar shuttler Lin Dan survived a scare in the Thomas Cup quarter-finals in Wuhan Wednesday, as China qualified for the semis in an event seen as a key test ahead of the London Olympics.
Malaysian youngster Liew Daren faced the daunting task of replacing injured world number one Lee Chong Wei in the first singles against the hot favourites, and the 33rd-ranked player rose to the occasion, taking a surprise one-game lead.
But the scare sparked Lin into action and badminton's most decorated player upped the tempo to win 17-21, 21-9, 21-5 to the delight of his adoring home fans.
"I had some problems at the start. I wasn't pleased because I couldn't adjust," said the world number two. "Daren is a new star in Malaysia. Lee won't always be around."
Lin and Daren have never met on the tour, and the Malaysian said this worked in his favour: "I think he was a bit confused in the first game. It is the first time he plays me.
"I had no fear, I just went in and played. I didn't think I could cause an upset, but maybe take one game."
Lin's teammate and world number three Chen Long had few problems in seeing off the challenge of Muhammad Hafiz Hashim to secure China's 3-0 victory, which takes the home nation into a semi-final clash against Japan.
In a spirited performance, the Japanese beat Indonesia 3-2 in their quarter-final tie, with youth triumphing over experience as 22-year-old Kenichi Tago beat his idol and former Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat 21-12, 21-17.
The Japanese shuttler, who has shot to number eight in the world this year, confidently dispatched the Athens 2004 gold medallist and former world number two, who is now ranked 12 in the world.
"Taufik is my idol. But because the Thomas Cup is a team competition, it is nation against nation on court, so I could see him as my enemy," Tago said after his second career win over the fiery Indonesian.
"But after the match, he is my idol again," he said.
The 30-year-old Hidayat, who is contemplating retirement after the London Olympics, said it was normal for young players to beat him now, but held back on sharing Tago's joy.
"If I lose to an Indonesian youngster I am happy, but I am not happy to lose to a Japanese youngster," he said, while praising Tago for his calm and control.
When asked about Japan's upcoming semi-final against China, Noriyasu Hirata, who won the first doubles contest of the match against Indonesia with his partner Hirokatsu Hashimoto, said it was a daunting task.
"Japan never wins against China so it is hard to say. But Japanese players have the fighting spirit," he said.
In the other Thomas Cup quarter-finals, traditional European powerhouse Denmark went through easily 3-0 against emerging force Russia, setting up a semi-final clash against South Korea, who gave Germany a 3-0 trouncing.
In the women's competition, the Uber Cup, China showed no mercy against a plucky German side, finishing them off 3-0.
The Germans did well to reach the knockouts after their star player and world number eight Juliane Schenk opted to stay home to prepare for London.
The decision disappointed China's Wang Yihan, who looked unusually sluggish in her 21-15, 21-17 singles win against Karin Schnaase.
"I wanted to play Schenk because she is the best German player and I want to test myself with every match," Wang said, showing the kind of mentality that has taken her to the top of the world rankings.
China take on Thailand in the semis, who beat the Danes 3-1, while reigning champions South Korea survived a stern test from Taiwan to win 3-2 to set up a semi-final clash against Japan, who beat Indonesia 3-2.
The Uber Cup semis take place on Thursday and the Thomas Cup matches are played on Friday.