Clay-court expert Nadal led 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 1-2 when play was temporarily suspended for the evening but, with Djokovic again in the ascendancy and ultimately in such consistently ruthless form, any potential victory now looks increasingly challenging to achieve.
If the key to overcoming the Spaniard has often been to take advantage of his occasional slow starts then Djokovic had begun in the worst-possible way but the steely determination with which his greatest victories have been inspired was once again crucial.
Djokovic had won eight consecutive games and would not have welcomed the chance to rest. Even with Nadal so much closer to victory it would have suited the Serb to maintain the momentum which, at that crucial point, was entirely his and making his bid to become the first man to hold all four Majors since Rod Laver in 1969 looking increasingly stronger.
The pair have already contested two epic finals, at the 2011 Australian and US Opens, but the drama that only rainfall can provide already appears to have contributed to another with the world’s two highest-ranked players exchanging both composure and control.
Nadal, who with victory will become the first to win seven French Open titles, had taken an early 3-0 lead before world No1 Djokovic negated the feat as clinically as he had fallen behind and though the Spaniard then performed irresistibly in his bid to scale a familiar Parisian peak, Djokovic again began to overcome him by taking the third set and looking ready for the fourth before heavy rain finally forced play to conclude for the day.
Any potential win for Djokovic will be only the second Nadal has experienced at Roland Garros since 2005, but with rain again expected today there may be further delays.