World number two Nadal seemed to be cruising to a last-four meeting with
Murray had earlier booked his place in the semi-finals with a come-from-behind 4-6 6-3 6-4 win over Serb
American wrestling star Big Show was among the celebrities in the stands to watch the late-night action on Stadium court and the self-styled 'World's Largest Athlete' flipped the coin to get things under way. What followed more than lived up to the now film actor's pseudonym.
In a hugely entertaining match that lasted 11 minutes shy of three hours, Tsonga somehow managed to come back from the dead, taking advantage of some woeful first serving by Nadal to, against all the odds, extend the contest deep into the night.
It was an entirely different story at the beginning of the match, though, when Nadal charged out the blocks in imperious form, breaking Tsonga in the very first game and again in the fifth to take a commanding lead.
Despite some apparent discomfort created by the strapping on his left foot, Nadal went on to claim the first set with ease, threatening to disappoint the fans with an early finish and leaving an out-of-sorts Tsonga with a mountain to climb.
That soon became a Himalayan proposition for the Frenchman as his serve continued to let him down early in the second set while Nadal cruised through his own service games.
The world number two finally broke in game five after Tsonga failed to pull off an attempted drop shot - not for the first, nor the last time this match - and at that point a swift finish appeared likely.
But Nadal's serve, particularly his first serve, rapidly deteriorated and in the next two games he was forced to save break points. The Mallorcan ended the match with a first serve percentage of just 64.
Nevertheless, with the set continuing to go to serve, he did enough to get into a match-winning position at 5-4, one game away from the last four and with the ball in his hands.
Yet it was at that point Tsonga chose to stage a remarkable fightback, breaking Nadal for the first time to save the match before repeating the feat a game later to clinch the second set and set up a decider.
Tsonga put together a run of five consecutive games in all as the world number six finally discovered his form and his aggressive style of play came together.
Nadal had the trainer out to rub his left knee at the changeover at 1-2 down in the final set and the treatment seemed to work, the second seed winning his next service game in far more confident mood.
The 10-time Grand Slam winner then made a crucial breakthrough on Tsonga's serve in the ninth game of the set, the Frenchman double-faulting to gift the opportunity to Nadal.
He took it and, serving for the match at 5-4 up once again, this time he did not let the opportunity slip for a second time, although he did have to save a break point and needed three match points to finally seal victory.
Nadal admitted he got his tactics wrong after breaking in the second set, when he opted for defence rather than attack.
"Before that Jo had many more mistakes than usual and that made it less complicated for me. But when he started to play better I started to play defensively," said Nadal.
"It is always hard against Andy. He is a player who pushes you all the way. I certainly need to make sure I recover well now," he added.