The Czech Republic, seeking a third consecutive Davis Cup title, moved into the quarter finals while France swamped Australia and Germany courted controversy as first round ties reached their conclusion on Sunday.
The Czechs held the upper hand 2-1 going into the reverse singles against the Netherlands and Tomas Berdych bagged the all-important third point with a three-set win over lowly-ranked Thiemo de Bakker.
The Dutch claimed the final dead rubber when Igor Sijsling saw off Lukas Rosol giving the Czechs a 3-2 victory and a last eight date with Japan, first time quarter-finalists after defeating Canada in Tokyo.
There was an air of anti-climax about Japan's feat after Canada's Frank Dancevic retired injured from his rubber with Kei Nishikori.
Go Soeda thrashed Peter Polansky 6-1, 6-4 in the dead final rubber to complete a 4-1 rout over last year's semi-finalists.
"It's a bit hard being overjoyed to win like that but to make history is unbelievable," Nishikori, the world number 18, reflected.
The Czechs may have to travel to Tokyo without their star player, world number seven Berdych.
"I've won the salad bowl twice, I've given the team a lot over the past 10, 11 years. I'd say a rest would be fully deserved," he had warned earlier.
Serbia, trailing Switzerland 3-0, had only honour at stake in Novi Sad.
With the Swiss resting their top two players - Australian Open winner Stanislas Wawrinka and Roger Federer - last year's beaten finalists duly clinched the closing two academic rubbers courtesy of Filip Krajinovic and Dusan Lajovic.
The Swiss host Kazakhstan, who saw off Belgium 3-2 in Almaty, in the quarter-finals.
Germany, who held an unassailable 3-0 lead over five-time former winners Spain in Frankfurt, soured their win by claiming that three of their players were unfit to play.
That left the crowd and the Spanish short-changed, with the hosts unable to play the opening rubber of the day - Germany's last man standing, Daniel Brands, beating Roberto Bautista Agut in the fifth rubber.
As Germany looked forward to facing France in the next round, the team were accused of damaging the image of German tennis.
Ex-Germany professional Nicolas Kiefer said: "It is a pity and sad, it has tarnished everything which has been built up in the last two days.
"From the outside, this is not a good look for us."
Germany captain Carsten Arriens had earlier explained, to jeers from spectators in the Frankfurt arena: "The three players are not in a position to play, the fact we must forfeit a game is not ideal."
In Saturday's doubles rubber, Germany's Tommy Haas and Philipp Kohlschreiber enjoyed a four-sets win over Fernando Verdasco and David Marrero.
But the victory came at a cost with Kohlschreiber picking up a thigh problem and Haas aggravating a shoulder injury, as had Friday's singles winner Florian Mayer.
"All three of us are all really beat up, we're flat, there's no way we can play," said Haas.
The German Tennis Union (DTB) said the trio had all been seen by an International Tennis Federation (ITF) doctor.
DTB president Karl Altenburg added: "We will assess what happened later in calm."
Over on the clay court of Mouilleron-le-Captif, France completed a 5-0 whitewash of Australia, Gael Monfils and Julien Benneteau dishing out three-set defeats to Aussie teenager Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis respectively.
Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, teaming up for the first time, had claimed the decisive point in Saturday's doubles against Chris Guccione and Lleyton Hewitt.
In the two remaining ties, Italy lead Argentina 2-1 in Mar del Plata, and Andy Murray's Great Britain lead the USA by the same margin in San Diego.
The quarter-finals of the 114-year-old competition are scheduled for April 4-6.