France edged Italy 80-77 after overtime in a thrilling game in Cagliari as the fight for the final place at the EuroBasket 2009 got off to an explosive start.
Playing without the injured Tony Parker, France recovered from letting a late lead slip to come from behind in the extra period and strike a key early blow in the Additional Qualifying Round.
Having trailed for much of the game, Italy looked like making France pay for not finishing them off earlier as they built a five-point lead in overtime, going 71-66 up when Matteo Soragna completed a three-point play from the free-throw line with 3:38 to go.
But France came back as Nicolas Batum made a lay-up and then split a pair of free throws.
Marco Belinelli's dunk put the gap back at four, 73-69, but Batum nailed a three-pointer and France reclaimed the lead when Florent Pietrus followed a Belinelli miss with a jump-shot.
Soragna missed again for Italy and France were three clear on Boris Diaw's lay-up with 50 seconds left.
Andrea Bargnani got it back to one with a hook shot, but Antoine Diot kept France clear with a pair of free throws.
Italy had 20 seconds left to do something, but Luca Vital turned the ball over and Diot made him pay with two more from the charity stripe that made it 80-75.
There was still time for a Belinelli lay-up, but victory belonged to France.
Overtime came after a tense finish to regular time.
With Italy down by two with 33 seconds left, newly-minted Toronto Raptor Belinelli showed nerves of steel to tie it 66-66 from the free-throw line.
France set up plays for Ronny Turiaf and Batum, but they missed to send the game to an extra period.
France had dominated the early going, racing to a 6-0 lead on Batum's dunk, and shortly after moving 10 points clear, 16-6, on a Pietrus jump-shot with 3:25 left in the opening quarter.
But after Nando De Colo's lay-up put them 21-10 up, Italy responded with a 9-0 run than stretched into the second quarter as Angelo Gigli's dunk got them back within two points.
France stayed narrowly ahead most of the rest of the way, but Italy never let them pull too far ahead.
Batum and Pietrus each had 20 points for France, with Batum adding eight rebounds, while Diaw also scored in double figures with 15 points.
Italy wasted 26 points from Belinelli, while Gigli had 13 and Bargnani 10.