Europe will have to create history to retain the Ryder Cup after being whitewashed in the opening session, but a brilliant fightback kept their hopes firmly alive at Hazeltine.
Darren Clarke's side were shell-shocked after losing all four foursomes matches in front of a raucous home crowd, with the star pairing of Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson tamely surrendering their unbeaten record to Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
However, Open champion Stenson and Olympic gold medallist Rose led by example in the afternoon fourballs against the same opposition, storming to a 5&4 win to get the first European point on the board.
The all-Spanish pairing of veteran Sergio Garcia and rookie Rafa Cabrera Bello then beat Ryan Moore and JB Holmes 3&2, before an off-form Martin Kaymer and Danny Willett lost 5&4 to Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka.
But Rory McIlroy and an inspired Thomas Pieters ended a rollercoaster day on a high note by beating US Open champion Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar 3&2 to ensure Europe trailed just 5-3 overnight.
McIlroy sealed the win with a stunning eagle on the 16th, but told Sky Sports: "I lost myself a little in the middle and thankfully redeemed myself at the end but all the credit has to go to this guy (Pieters).
"He has been incredible all day. He is a stud."
European captain Clarke added: "I'm massively proud of them to do what we did. We were bitterly disappointed at lunchtime, we just did not play the way we know they can and America did.
"And then the guys come out this afternoon to put in a performance like that, the performance was scintillating."
The United States have never lost a Ryder Cup on home soil after winning the opening session and, perhaps fittingly, the last time they won the first series 4-0 was when the late Arnold Palmer was captain in 1975, albeit against Great Britain and Ireland.
Palmer's bag from that contest had been displayed on the first tee in tribute to the seven-time major winner after his death on Sunday and appeared to inspire a flying start from the home side.
Three birdies in the first seven holes put Spieth and Reed in command of the opening match and their European opponents managed just a solitary birdie before Reed sealed a 3&2 win on the 16th.
Lee Westwood and Pieters were in trouble from the moment they bogeyed the first two holes and were five down after eight, their only win of the day coming with a par on the ninth after the Americans three-putted from long range.
Kaymer and Garcia were then made to pay for missing good chances to punish a nervous start from Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson, who birdied the 13th, 14th and 16th - and won the 15th with a par - to come back from one down after 11 holes.
But arguably the biggest blow came as McIlroy and Andy Sullivan twice squandered a two-hole lead in match two, the second coming after birdies on the 13th and 14th.
The European pair bogeyed the 15th and lost the next to a birdie before Sullivan, who had been superb otherwise, found water with his tee shot on the 17th.
Needing something special in the fourballs, Clarke left Chris Wood and Matt Fitzpatrick on the sidelines and gave debuts to Cabrera Bello and Willett, whose form appeared to have been affected by the furore over the anti-American sentiments his brother Pete had expressed in a magazine article.
Heckled by some sections of the crowd throughout, Willett holed long birdie putts on the first and ninth but got little help from partner Kaymer as the pair suffered a heavy defeat.
In contrast, Cabrera Bello enjoyed a dream debut with birdies on the first and sixth and a crucial par save on the seventh after he and Garcia both found water off the tee.
Garcia then chipped in for a birdie on the ninth and when Holmes and Moore finally registered their first birdies of the day on the 10th and 11th, Garcia simply followed them in for a half before another birdie on the 16th ended some brave American resistance.
Pieters was similarly inspired, perhaps by memories of the performance of fellow Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts at Medinah in 2012, most crucially making a birdie on the 13th to move four up after McIlroy had found the water.
And after losing the 14th to a par and the 15th to a birdie, McIlroy ended the match in stunning fashion with a brilliant eagle on the par-five 16th before bowing to the crowd.
The tone had crucially been set by Rose and Stenson, who lost the first hole to a Reed birdie but then carded nine of their own in the next 13, Stenson firing three in a row from the sixth and coming agonisingly close to a hole-in-one on the eighth.
Rose crucially matched Spieth's birdie on the 11th and when the Americans made a mess of the next, the stage was set for Rose to seal the win with another birdie on the 14th.