PARIS - Defending Davis Cup champions France took an unassailable 3-0 semi-final lead over Spain on Saturday when Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau beat Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers 6-0, 6-4, 7-6 (9/7) in the third of five rubbers on the Lille hardcourt.

France, captained by 1983 French Open winner Yannick Noah, will meet either Croatia or the United States in the final in late November. "The way my guys played today - they were so good," said Noah. "Benneteau was probably the best player on the court and his attitude was unbelievable," Noah said of the man set to retire after the final.

Davis Cup rookie Benoit Paire gave France a winning start on Friday when the bearded 29-year-old enjoyed what he termed "a dream" 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 defeat of Pablo Carreno Busta. Lucas Pouille's nerve-jangling five-set victory -- 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 -- over Roberto Bautista-Agut in the following match made it 2-0.

Spain coach Sergi Bruguera said he was very proud of his team despite the scoreline. "It was a difficult scenario and we didn't take full advantage of our opportunities," he said. "Mahut and Benneteau played a fabulous game," he said.

"We were sweating blood for every point and in the end it was decided on minor details," he explained. "So all I can do is congratulate them, we did absolutely everything we could have done."

The United States cut Croatia's lead to 2-1 in their Davis Cup semi-final as Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison won a dramatic doubles rubber in Zadar Saturday. Croatia, who saw Marin Cilic and Borna Coric both win their singles matches on Friday, will try again on Sunday to book a final date with defending champions France in November.

Bryan and Harrison won a deciding-set tie-break to end a thrilling comeback from Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic with a 7-5, 7-6 (8/6), 1-6, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5) victory after four hours and 43 minutes on court.

But Croatia captain Zeljko Krajan is still confident that his team will secure victory in Sunday's first match which sees world number six Cilic face Steve Johnson. "Cilic is a big favourite... it will definitely not be easy to defeat him in front of a home crowd," Krajan told television channel HRT. If Johnson causes an upset against Cilic, Coric will play against Davis cup debutant Frances Tifaoe in a deciding rubber. On Friday, Coric justified his favourite's tag and defeated Johnson 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, before Cilic defeated Tiafoe 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) to leave his country on the brink of the final.

Croatia have made the final twice, in 2005, when they were crowned champions, and 2016. Croatia have beaten the USA on each of their four previous Davis Cup meetings.

Jim Courier's team is missing two top players -- John Isner, the world number 10 who has stayed home due to family reasons, and injured Jack Sock.