Rafael Nadal stayed on track to reclaim the world number one ranking after recovering from a set down to defeat Fabio Fognini in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.
With the home crowd on his side, the flamboyant Fognini threatened to cause an upset when he won the final five games of the first set after trailing 4-1.
But Nadal broke serve at the start of the second set and thereafter was always in control, with Fognini needing treatment for a left knee problem before going down 4-6 6-1 6-2.
Nadal said on Sky Sports: "He played well, it's true I had a couple of mistakes but he played quick, going for shots without missing much. He put me under pressure. I should not lose two serves in a row but it happened. The only thing I can do is accept and keep working for the next set.
"I increased a little bit the level with my forehand, it was something I needed to do. It was a great day to play tennis and a good match."
Fognini boasts three wins over Nadal in his career, including becoming the first player to beat the great Spaniard from two sets down at a grand slam at the US Open in 2015.
But Nadal had won all five meetings since and, although he was rattled by Fognini's comeback in the first set, ultimately the Italian could not sustain the brilliance needed to overcome the greatest clay-courter in history.
Having lost top spot in the rankings to Roger Federer following his loss to Dominic Thiem in Madrid last week, Nadal can reclaim it by winning the title in Rome. He will next face either Novak Djokovic or Kei Nishikori.