By Mark Lamport-Stokes
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A gritty fightback by the Internationals for the second day in a row left the Presidents Cup hanging in the balance when it had seemed U.S. dominance was likely to continue in the biennial competition.
Holders the United States established early advantages in five of the six fourball matches on Friday but now lead their visitors by just 6- points to 5- going into Saturday morning's foursomes.
The Internationals, who have triumphed only once in the seven editions of the Cup, rallied superbly in late afternoon sunshine at Harding Park to leave their captain Greg Norman with a huge grin on his face.
"I am very, very happy right now and very excited about the way we turned things around today," the Australian told reporters after his team had split the fourball encounters 3-3.
"It really could have been a disastrous situation if the trend just kept going the way it was going. The end result, from our perspective, is great.
"We were down 5-1 in our matches and to come out with a push was just an admirable job by my guys."
The first blue point of the day came from Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa and South Korean Yang Yong-eun, who thumped Kenny Perry and Sean O'Hair 4&3.
Cup veterans Ernie Els of South Africa and Canadian Mike Weir added another after coming from one down after 15 holes to beat Jim Furyk and Anthony Kim two up.
However the biggest boost for the Internationals came from the final shot of the day when diminutive South African Tim Clark, who reached the green in two at the par-five last, sank a curling 14-foot eagle putt.
His dagger blow, in partnership with Fijian Vijay Singh, secured a dramatic one-up win against American major winners Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink.
"Tim Clark, to do what he did at the end, to come down to make eagle to win that match, was really the shot in the arm," said Norman, flashing his trademark smile.
Going into this week, all the signs had pointed toward another U.S. Cup victory. Collective recent form, the competition's history and comparative world rankings combined to make the American team heavy favorites at Harding Park.
With their three big guns -- Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker -- going unbeaten in their first two matches, it was hardly surprising the Internationals fell behind early in both opening sessions.
However, with the U.S. poised to grab commanding leads on each of the first two days, the Internationals twice rallied late to cut the deficit.
"Greg's guys were great today, to battle back and get three points when they needed to was a good finish," said U.S. captain Fred Couples.
"We were up, but barely up and his (Norman's) guys certainly have as much fight as our guys. They battled back, and we did lose a couple of matches.
"Timmy Clark eagling that last hole was a big boost for them but, at the same time, our guys are awfully excited about the way they are playing. That's a key thing."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)