MELBOURNE, Australia - No.18 seed Garbiñe Muguruza overcame both former nemesis Johanna Konta and the latest ever start time for a match at the Australian Open, making her way into the third round in a superbly contested encounter 6-4, 6-7(3), 7-5 in the small hours of the morning.

Technically, Thursday's final match ended up being Friday's first: rain delays and a succession of epics preceding Muguruza and Konta on Margaret Court Arena meant that the pair would only begin their battle at 12.30am - 31 minutes after previous record of 11.59am, last year's third-round clash between Elise Mertens and Daria Gavrilova - long after most of today's other competitors were tucked up in bed. A mooted move to Court 3 at 11.55pm was cancelled after it was discovered that seagulls had rendered the court unusable.

Moreover, their past history indicated that another marathon might be likely: each of Muguruza and Konta's previous three matches had gone the distance, with the Briton's pair of wins at Eastbourne and the US Open in 2015 proving crucial stepping stones in her rise into the Top 100 that year. Tonight's enthralling two-hour, 42-minute battle was not a letdown on that front as the former World No.1 finally sealed her revenge at 3.12am.

"I'm very happy because it was a very tough match," Muguruza told reporters at her post-match press conference. "She played very high level. At some point just we were both playing great. So just waiting for any chance in both sides."

It was to their credit that the two players produced the sustained quality that ensued. Unsurprisingly given their playing styles, the match would pivot around the serve - and both were on sharp form in that department, with Konta landing 76% of first serves over the match and Muguruza 72%. 

"[The start time] was not ideal," Konta admitted afterwards. "However, we were both in the same boat. 

"I think it's more important to focus on the level of the match we had because it was actually a very good match. It's unfortunate more people couldn't enjoy it during the day."

Consequently, there would be very few losses of focus - and thus very few opportunities. Konta got off to the slower start, the World No.38 sending a forehand long to drop serve in the first game - and this would ultimately cost her the set, which saw only two further break points come and go, one for each player.

The danger for Muguruza came in the sixth game thanks to three careless errors, but the 25-year-old would save it with a forehand winner; Konta faced a set point at 3-5 and would pull through with three forehand winners, but could not find a way past Muguruza in the next game.

The pattern - and high level of execution - would hold in the second set, with both players committing to aggressive, front-foot tennis behind their deliveries and attempting to withstand the pressure to create chances on return. Again, there would be few of the latter.

Konta held a break point in the fourth game, but sent a forehand wide; Muguruza would hold with a fabulous pinpoint lob. At 4-4, the 2016 semifinalist lapsed into error to face two break points that would have enabled the former World No.1 to serve for the match, but saved them in style: a brave, aggressive second serve and a brilliant flicked backhand pass.

As the second set had moved towards its dénouement, it was Konta who had been marginally sharper off the ground and better able to find angles to open up the court - and this served the 27-year-old well in the inevitable tiebreak. Seizing the first minibreak with a backhand winner following a 14-shot rally, Konta shut the door on the set unhesitatingly, closing it out with her second ace and a huge forehand return that skidded off the baseline.

If anything, the quality rose even higher as the match drew further into the night. At 2.45am, Konta won a supremely athletic point that involved slices, races to track short shots and finally a scything smash to put it away; on the very next point, Muguruza carved up the court with spreading groundstrokes before hurling herself into a drive volley to end it. As the clock struck 3am, the two-time Grand Slam champion slammed her ninth ace down the tee.

Overall, both would finish with positive ratios of winners to unforced errors, Konta tallying 46 of the former and 37 of the latter while Muguruza scored 41 to a mere 19. Through 11 games of the deciding set, there was nothing to separate the pair of late-night warriors - indeed, it would come down to the finest margins. Serving to stay in the match at 5-6, errant Konta groundstrokes put the former World No.4 down 15-30; though spectacular hustling and a short forehand winner pulled her back to 30-30, Muguruza scented her chance.

A magnificent inside-out backhand return that landed in the corner sent Konta flailing and set up a rare break point that doubled as a match point - and Muguruza went straight back to the same shot to pound another winner past her opponent. After 34 games in which she had held serve every time she stepped up to the line, the former Wimbledon champion was in the third round at last - where she will face another former Top 10 player in Timea Bacsinszky.

"She's a very tricky player," Muguruza said. "[Bacsinszky] has a lot of talent. We played many years ago, I think. So, yeah, looking forward. Looking forward very much."