Ninth seed Thiem became the first player since Andy Roddick in 2004 to win a love set against Nadal in NY but the defending champion once again dug deep to come out on top of a gruelling battle played in more punishing humidity.
But in a titanic battle worthy of a final, with stunning winners on both racquets and breathtaking defence, top seed Nadal rallied to outlast Thiem 0-6 6-4 7-5 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-5) in the longest match of this year's tournament - four hours and 49 minutes.
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Nadal had a horror start to the match, with Thiem racing through the first set 6-0 in 23 minutes, just the second time in his US Open career that the Spaniard has lost a set 6-0.
Thiem was also 5-3 ahead in the third set and 4-2 in the fourth before he was reeled in by Nadal, the three-time champion in NY.
The Austrian blasted 13 winners, made only two unforced errors and allowed Nadal just seven points in winning an extraordinary opening set.
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Nadal said: "It was very demanding in all aspects".
(AAP )Dominic Thiem pushed Rafael Nadal to five sets in their US Open quarter final. Of course, my level dropped a little bit.
AFTER almost five hours on court, world No.1 Rafael Nadal and rising challenger Dominic Thiem had exhausted their tanks. And I would say if we skip the first set, it was a really open match from the beginning to the end. "He's a great guy, a close friend who will have many more opportunities to win the big titles".
With the great trio of Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic continuing to feature at the back end of the grand slams, the tennis world has been waiting for the next generation to take over - and Thiem put his hand up to be recognised as the most willing of the 25-and-unders. I know how he plays, he knows how I am playing.
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Nadal, who registered his 12th consecutive victory in the tournament, managed to maintain his record of not losing a single US Open quarter-final since his first last-eight appearance in 2006. "The only thing which was uncomfortable was the sweating I couldn't run any more in the fourth set because the shoes were completely wet", Thiem said. "I don't think there's any change with her game", Pliskova said. "The conditions were tough, very humid for me". I tried to stay in the match some way in the second set. I am focused on trying to make that happen. Nadal was once again able to recover after going down a break, forcing the set to a tie-breaker. "It's good to have now two days (without a match) that probably give me the chance to be 100 percent in the semi-finals". Nadal then broke again to take the set 7-5.