By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Defending champions Brazil saved six match points on the way to defeating Russia 3-2 in the quarter-finals of the women's volleyball tournament at Earls Court on Tuesday.
Spike Sheilla Castro scored 27 points for the Brazilians who twice battled back from a set down to set up a semi-final against Japan who also came through a five-setter against China.
The day's first two quarter-finals spanned nearly five hours and produced an electrifying atmosphere in the cavernous pre-World War Two venue in west London.
United States, whose women are trying to emulate the men's side's gold in Beijing, face Dominican Republic in the first evening match followed by South Korea versus Italy.
Brazil began the tournament slowly and group phase defeats against the United States and South Korea left them hanging on by a thread, but they have since returned to form.
Victories against China and Serbia meant they qualified for the knockout phase but they looked to have reached the end of the road against Russia, who in 2.02 metre Ekaterina Gamova boast one of the most formidable players in the world.
However, with captain Fabiana Claudino inspiring her players and the many Brazilians in the crowd willing them on, the South Americans emerged victorious, winning the decider 21-19.
"We are very happy with the result to win 3-2 in the quarter-final," coach Jose Guimaraes told reporters.
"After (the match against) Korea we tried to talk to each other about the situation of the teams going through.
"We were not playing well, we were not playing as a team, even though the preparation was really good. Since then we started to improve. Today was a fantastic match."
(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)