Elimination in British singles looked possible for the second time in four editions in Paris when Norrie was 4-2 down to Suzanne Lenglen in the deciding set but fought back and France’s Paire went 7-5, 4-6 and 3: 3 defeated. 6 6-1 6-4 and silenced the lively home crowd.
A pivotal moment came in the third game of the second set when Norrie served when the score was 30-30 and referee Nico Helwerth awarded the number 14 seed a point for an obstruction, claiming he had shouted during play.
Paire then broke the serve and although Norrie kept his on-court protest brief, he made it clear in the press conference room how unhappy he was.
“I don’t think either of us knew why he called it that,” Norrie said. “I think Benoit thought it was for him, we were both a bit confused. It was definitely a grunt. That was an important point. I don’t know why he felt it necessary to get involved there. He didn’t warn me at all.
“It ultimately changed the dynamic of the game. Up to this point I’ve been feeling pretty comfortable for the most part. At the next point, Benoit had a winner and then I broke down.
“It was weird. He must have believed that I said something and I think it’s absurd that he agreed to it.”
Norrie cited another decision from Sunday against Dan Evans when the Britain player suffered a foot fault from a linesman at the other end of the field because his back foot crossed the halfway line.
“I’ve been looking at it and he hasn’t made a foot fault by a long shot and the guy on the other side of the net is calling him,” Norrie said.
“What are we doing here? I play tennis here and compete as hard as I can and doing that is a pretty important point. If I talk to him now, he might think he’s wrong, but fight at the end of the day me against my ass and a single phone call could obviously affect the game.
“I did my best not to let it bother me. I’ve never been called on to do this before. Of course I think it’s unacceptable – that’s my position – but if he makes a wrong decision, there will be no consequences. And if I do something wrong, there will be consequences for me.”
Paire, who has one of the best beards in the sport but not the best temper, flirted with retirement at the age of 34 and entered the event as a wildcard in 134th place.
When they met in the same round at the US Open last summer, Norrie won two lightning sets 6-0 on either side of a contested second, with Paire grabbing his bag before the game was over.
But his attitude was very different here and he probably should have won a weak first set after taking a break lead and picking up seven more break points.
Norrie has been struggling for form over the past few months, unable to snatch the momentum from Paire in sets two and three as crowd involvement grew and the Marseillaise and Mexican Wave erupted.
The Frenchman seemed content with a decisive through after falling out early in the fourth, and looked on course for victory as Norrie handed another break early in the fifth, but the British no. 1 eventually came out on top rewarded for his efforts.
He can expect a similar atmosphere in the next round when he takes on the resurgent Lucas Pouille, who was the star of Roland Garros this week after surviving qualifying due to injuries and personal problems.
Norrie relishes opportunities like this, saying, “I think it’s great to play those games in Grand Slams against home favorites and I think that’s why I play tennis.” That’s why I love those moments.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to be on the other side. I think the crowd can be tough sometimes, but I keep reminding myself that it’s good to play, that I want to be out there to compete and be there in the tough moments when the crowd is against me is
“It makes it even better to get through those games, so it was really cool to play on that pitch and against Benoit, who competed really hard and showed a good level today too.
“I haven’t done my best and there are a lot of things I want to work on in practice tomorrow, but it’s good to come through and nice to win a five-set match.”