Roger Federer crushed the hopes of a nation by dismantling local favourite Bernard Tomic 6-4 7-6 6-1 to sail into the last 16 of the Australian Open and leave a packed centre court crowd stunned.
The much-hyped clash between the Swiss maestro and his 20-year-old opponent briefly caught fire in the middle stages but ultimately fizzled out under the lights of Rod Laver Arena, as Federer marched to a clinical 118-minute victory.
The highly fancied Australian raised the stakes in the lead-up, declaring himself confident of upsetting the 17-times Grand Slam champion.
He came within two points of snatching the second set tiebreak in an atmosphere akin to a football match, but was left demoralised as Federer wrenched back the momentum with a brilliant counter-attack.
The opportunity lost, Tomic promptly collapsed, losing his serve in the opening game of the third set to fall behind 3-0, before Federer closed out the match with a monster serve.
The result was a repeat of last year's fourth-round clash, when Federer trounced the young Australian in straight sets.
"I think overall we both played a great match ... (he) really got the best out of me tonight so I hope he can keep it up," Federer said in a courtside interview.
"It's nice that you guys invite me back every year ... It's not my favourite part of the job beating up on the home heroes."
Federer next plays Canadian 13th seed Milos Raonic as he bids for an 18th Grand Slam title and fifth at Melbourne Park. Raonic beat German 17th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6(4) 6-3 6-4.
Former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro became the highest seed dumped out when he was stunned 6-3 6-3 6-7 3-6 6-3 by France's Jeremy Chardy in their third-round clash.
The sixth-seeded Argentine, the only player outside of the 'Big Four' of men's tennis to have won a grand slam in the last eight years, had come into the match in ominous form, conceding only 13 games to his first two opponents, the lowest in the men's draw.
After 225 minutes on Hisense Arena, though, it was the unfancied Chardy, a 36th-ranked clay court specialist with a solitary ATP title, who was toasting one of the finest wins of his career.
"From the first point to the last point, I played exactly the same. I stayed calm, and very focused so that's why I won today," the 25-year-old beamed after setting up a fourth-round clash with 21st seed Andreas Seppi of Italy.
"It's a big win for me, and maybe the best of my career ... I'm so happy."
In a match that lasted four hours, 43 minutes, 14th seed Gilles Simon finally made good of the efforts that helped him to an early two-set lead over fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils.
The unseeded physical wonder was full of surprises as he clawed his way back level to ensure an epic final set, punctuated by 40- and 50-shot rallies that followed a whopping 71-shot point earlier, before Simon at last forced him to defeat at 6-4 6-4 4-6 1-6 8-6.
The pair suffered for their massive efforts, with Simon continuously treated on his arm and leg, while Monfils had problems with his back in the third and fourth sets. The results sets up a fourt-round tie with Andy Murray.
Italian 21st seed Seppi knocked out 12th seed Marin Cilic 6-7(2) 6-3 2-6 6-4 6-2.
The 6ft-6in Del Potro was dismantled by the simplest of tactics, lured inside the court by sliced backhands and then picked off by the Frenchman's forehand.
The Argentine "Tower of Tandil" served his way back into the match, but lost the decisive break at 4-3 in the fifth set, allowing Chardy to calmly serve out with an ace on match point.
Del Potro, wearing a bright blue and white polo shirt in the Argentine colours, was philosophical at his post-match media conference.
"In the end when he had the chance to break me, he did," he said. "I think that was the key. In the end, he played better in the important moments, and he took the chance to win the match."
Since upsetting Roger Federer in the 2009 final at Flushing Meadows, Del Potro has struggled to reach his peak after a long battle with a troublesome wrist injury.
He returned as a force in men's tennis last year, however, winning four titles and reaching the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park and the US Open to finish the season in the top 10.
Even after shocking world number one Novak Djokovic to win the singles bronze at the London Olympics, Del Potro has been circumspect about his chances of adding a second grand slam title.
"I have to work hard because the season just started," Del Potro said. "I believe in my game, myself. I will work very, very hard for the future."
Ninth seed Richard Gasquet's progress was by no means smooth and he was in a hole of his own at a set and a break down before charging back to beat Croatian Ivan Dodig 4-6 6-3 7-6 6-0.
His seventh seeded compatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had an easier day, hammering Blaz Kavcic 6-2 6-1 6-4 as the Slovenian paid the price for the four hours and 50 minutes he spent in the 40 degree Celsius heat on Thursday in his second-round tie.
"We have a lot of good players," said Chardy of the French charge. "I think everybody start to play well this year. So I don't know. I don't know what is the thing. We just play good."