CHENNAI, Sept 18 (PTI) : Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi recorded their 24th consecutive Davis Cup doubles win to keep India afloat in the World Group play-off tie against Brazil, reducing the margin to 1-2 here today.
The �Indian Express� faced some stiff competition from Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares before prevailing 6-4 7-6(5) 6-1 in two hours and 19 minutes in the doubles rubber.
The Indian pair saved four set-points in the second set and then survived a tough tie-break of the same set to take a comfortable 2-0 lead, en route to win.
Paes, who completed 20 years in Davis Cup, served out the match for India.
India came to the doubles rubber after heart-breaking singles defeats of Rohan Bopanna and Somdev Devvarman, who lost close matches yesterday.
Now Bopanna and Somdev will have to win both the reverse singles tomorrow�s if India are to advance to the World Group. Somdev will play the first reverse singles against world number 27 Thomaz Bellucci and Bopanna will take on 75th-ranked Ricardo Mello.
India had made the elite World Group after 11 years after beating South Africa in an away tie last year, but lost in the first round to Russia to be relegated to the play-off competition.
If the hosts players fail to win both the matches, India will be back to Asia/Oceania Zone Group I. Brazil have not entered the World Group since 2003 and have failed to clear the play-off hurdle in the last few attempts.
Paes and Bhupathi, despite not playing together on the ATP circuit, were as good a force as they were before separating and were on top of their game today.
The Brazilians were a little slow off the blocks but gradually got their rhythm and played tough tennis barring the lop-sided third set.
Paes and Bhupathi remain unbeaten in the Davis Cup doubles rubbers since 1996 when they had lost to Jonas Bjorkman and Nicklas Kulti in the World Group quarter-finals against Sweden.
Lee-Hesh began by breaking the Brazilians in the very first game of the match and were soon up 4-0 with a double break.
The Brazilians changed their tactics with Melo starting returning the serves to the feet of the Indians, creating three breakpoints.
Earlier, India�s hopes to re-enter the Davis Cup World Group suffered a big jolt as the hosts conceded a 0-2 lead against Brazil, following defeats of Somdev Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna in the action-packed singles rubbers on the opening day of the play-off tie, here yesterday.
Running high on emotions, both the matches lasted over four hours and went to the wire as players from the two teams fought tooth and nail till the last point, in a stunning display of stamina and hunger for win.
Bopanna squandered three match points in the final set to lose the first singles 7-6 (2) 6-7 (7) 5-7 6-4 8-10 to world number 27 Thomaz Bellucci.
Gritty Somdev put up a valiant fight but could not level the tie for India as he lost 6-4 2-6 7-6(3) 2-6 4-6 to Ricardo Mello, who is ranked 38 places above him at 75.
Bopanna was all charged up as he came into the tie after a memorable run at US Open, where he made the doubles final with Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, but missed out on recording the biggest win his Davis Cup career by losing the marathon match, which lasted four-and-a-half hours.
He made Bellucci, ranked 452 places above him, work hard for points but could not pull it off as nerves got the better of him on crucial junctures.