Andy Murray's hopes of winning his first Australian Open have taken a giant step forward after defending champion Novak Djokovic suffered a shock exit at the hands of world number 117 Denis Istomin, with the Uzbek winning 7-6 (10-8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4.
The Serb had won the tournament an Open Era-record six times, with four of his victories coming in finals against Murray, who has lost five finals in total.
However, the former world number one has seen his form dip dramatically following his capture of the French Open title last June, which meant he had joined the elite group of eight players who have won all four major titles.
Having lost his world number one crown to Murray, Djokovic appeared to have laid down a marker when he defeated the Scot in the final of the Qatar Open earlier this month. However, any fears that a revived Djokovic could be back to his best and thwart Murray's Melbourne ambitions again have now evaporated.
Murray swiftly asserted his own continued excellence by dismantling American Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 in the third round. Querrey, who started the Djokovic decline by defeating him last year at The Championships, Wimbledon, had just enjoyed another shock win in Melbourne by partnering Donald Young to a men's doubles victory against holders Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares.
However, hopes of a 'Murray double' were swiftly dismantled as the world number one moved serenely into the last 16, raising his game from the previous two rounds and showing few signs of the ankle injury he picked up when playing Andrey Rubin. After saving a first set break point at 3-4, Murray took complete control and even managed to out-ace his big-serving opponent eight to five, so dominant was his returning.
Discussing his performance, Murray said: "I felt better and better as the match went on in terms of my movement. I was a little bit hesitant maybe at the beginning - it was a little bit sore - but I was moving well at the end. So that was very positive."
Discussing Djokovic in his BBC Sport column, he had sympathetic words for his friend and rival, saying: "I think everyone needs to give him a bit of a break."
Murray will now face Mischa Zverev in the fourth round and, if he can go on to win the tournament, will go into the French Open with a chance of joining the likes of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in winning all four Grand Slams. The same possibility already awaits Stan Wawrinka when the Championships, Wimbledon comes around in June.
British fans can enjoy more than the brilliance of Murray and the ongoing progress of Johanna Konta in the women's draw, as Dan Evans has provided more good news with a straight-sets win over Aussie Bernard Tomic.
He defeated the 27th seed 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-3) to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time, where he will meet the 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The veteran Frenchman is the other player to have lost an Australian Open final against Djokovic.