* Djokovic takes first set 6-3
* Nadal wins second 7-5 to level
* Spaniard leads 2-1 as Djokovic fades (Updates with Nadal leading after third set)
PARIS, June 8 (Reuters) - Defending champion Rafa Nadal of Spain was one set away from a record extending ninth French Open title when he took the third set of Sunday's final against world number two Novak Djokovic 6-2.
The world number one lost the opening set 6-3 but struck back to win the second 7-5 and benefited from Djokovic's lapse in form to take the third.
Both players started the match strongly on their service games until Djokovic, who is looking to complete a career grand slam in Paris, moved 40-15 up on Nadal's serve in the eighth game.
Nadal, who had trouble finding his range, saved the two break points with a forehand winner down the line and a big first serve but misfired on the third.
The claycourt master had two break points in the ninth but fluffed a forehand on the first and sent another long on the second as Djokovic held to take the first set when Nadal failed to return a booming forehand.
Nadal set up a break point in the sixth game of the second set and thought he had won it with a backhand, only for umpire Pascal Maria to overrule the linesperson and award the point to Djokovic.
He had another chance and there was no contest this time as Djokovic returned Nadal's forehand into the net, but the Serb broke straight back when his opponent's forehand sailed long.
Djokovic saved another break point in the eighth game but the momentum had shifted Nadal's way and the man from Mallorca took the set on the world number two's serve with a forehand winner.
He broke in the second game of the third set when Djokovic, who looked exhausted, netted a regulation volley.
At the following change of ends, the Serb almost fell off his chair.
Nadal was always on top, wrapping up the set on Djokovic's serve when the Serb sent a forehand long. (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Alan Baldwin)