Liam Pitchford missed out 13-11 in a deciding game to Dimitrij Ovtcharov at the WTT Contender Rio after both men had saved match points.
The England No 1 looked in good form against the world No 10 and third seed and scored four more points than his opponent over the course of the match.
It came down to fine margins, never more so than on the final point as an edge took Ovtcharov through to the last 16 with his third 13-11 game win of the match.
Pitchford had won the first three points of the match on his way to taking the first game 11-6 and then saved three game points in the second but could not engineer a chance of his own. He did get a chance at 10-9 in the third, but once again the German edged it 13-11.
Pitchford trailed the fourth 5-2, prompting a timeout and same advice from John Murphy in the corner. It worked a treat as Pitchford took seven points in a row from 4-6 to 11-6 to level the match.
Ovtcharov also had a start in the decider, this time 6-1, but Pitchford again worked his way back, levelling at 9-9 from 6-9 down. Ovtcharov was first to bring up a match point, then it was Pitchford’s turn at 11-10.
Both were saved and then came Ovtcharov’s edge and a rueful look from Pitchford as he squatted down on his haunches for a couple of seconds before the handshake – but he will know there were positives to take.
In the men’s doubles, Pitchford & Paul Drinkhall booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Men’s Doubles with a 12-10 in the fifth victory over Carlos Ishida & Guilherme Teodoro of the host nation.
The Brazilians twice came from a game down to level and, with the crowd behind them, brought up a match point at 10-9 in the fifth.
The English pair saved that one and two points later they had won it as a superb retrieve by Pitchford swung into the body of Ishida and prevented a clean return.
The double Commonwealth champions next face top seeds Lim Jonghoon & An Jaehyun in the quarter-finals at 2.35pm UK time on Table 2.
The previous night, Drinkhall and Tom Jarvis were unable to join Pitchford in the main draw, though they saved eight match points between them before going out in the third and final qualifying round.
Drinkhall faced Germany’s Ricardo Walther, ranked 11 places above him at No 70 in the world and four successive points from 5-5 broke the back of the first game for Walther. Drinkhall then won the first three points of the second game but lost it 11-4 as the German took charge.
The next two games were much closer and Drinkhall got himself back in it, saving three match points (8-10 and 10-11) before claiming the game 14-12.
The fourth followed much the same pattern and Drinkhall saved three more match points at 9-10, 10-11 and 11-12 but could not this time engineer a game point of his own and was beaten 14-12.
Jarvis was up against India’s Harmeet Desai (WR 63). an opponent he had twice beaten. There was to be no repeat this time as Desai held the advantage throughout.
He pulled away from 5-5 to take the first and quickly opened a gap in the second with a run of five points from 3-2.
Jarvis fought hard in the third but was always behind until he pulled level at 8-8. Desai brought up two match points, which Jarvis saved, but the Indian then took the next two points to take the game 12-10 and seal victory.
Round of 32
Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) bt Liam PItchford 3-2 (6-11, 13-11, 13-11, 6-11, 13-11)
Qualifying round 3
Ricardo Walther (GER) bt Paul Drinkhall 3-1 (11-6, 11-4, 12-14, 14-12)
Harmeet Desai (IND) bt Tom Jarvis 3-0 (11-6, 11-5, 12-10)
Round of 16
Liam Pitchford & Paul Drinkhall bt Carlos Ishida & Guilherme Teodoro (BRA) 3-2 (11-6, 7-11, 11-5, 8-11, 12-10)