SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Brad Jacobs scratched his neck and rubbed his face with his hands in a gesture of sheer relief as he slid across the ice to celebrate with his Canada teammates.
The gold-medal favorites in men's Olympic curling stayed on course for the semifinals on Saturday.
But only just.
In another thrilling finish at the Ice Cube Curling Center, Canada stole a point in the final end to beat Britain 7-5 and avoid dropping back into trouble in the standings.
"Relief," Jacobs said. "Complete and total relief. We got lucky ... That was the most nervous feeling this week."
China and Sweden earned far more convincing wins to move into a two-way tie for the lead at 6-1 and guarantee at least a tiebreaker for a spot in the playoffs.
The Chinese silenced the home crowd early in a 9-6 victory over Russia to maintain their sparkling form this week and Sweden needed only nine ends to beat Germany 8-4.
The joint-leaders are one more victory away from definitely being in the semifinals. Both Britain and Canada are 5-2.
Only Norway (3-3), which didn't play Saturday, realistically can stop the current top four from advancing. The Norwegians play Britain in Sunday's morning session and could be knocked out of contention with a loss.
Players and coaches from rival teams stayed on to watch the riveting end to the Canada-Britain game, highlighting how crucial it was in the context of the tournament. Even players from the Canadian ice hockey team were at the Ice Cube Curling Center for the game.
By opening with two losses in their first three games, the Canadians have been under pressure all week and they again failed to produce their best form. Jacobs was uncharacteristically sloppy, by his very high standards, and shouted "that shouldn't have happened!" when he failed to hold the shooter for two points in the ninth end.