In the first rubber in Lille on Friday, home favourite Lucas Pouille, ranked 22nd in the world, was expected to get France off to a winning start but he crumbled under the early pressure.
Serbian Dusan Lajovic, who sits 80th in the ATP standings, produced a brilliant performance to silence the raucous home crowd, taking the match 6-1 3-6 7-6 7-6 to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead.
Having lost the first match, the pressure was firmly on the shoulders of Tsonga but he managed to respond with a solid display, picking up a comfortable victory to level the scores at 1-1.
The 32-year-old won in straight sets - 7-6 6-3 6-3 - and, after seeing his side pegged back, Serbia captain Nenad Zimonjic admits they need a monumental effort to advance into the final.
"This is what Davis Cup is about," he said. "Both players gave everything - they fought until the end. We know we need a miracle to win this tie but we believe in our team."
Both teams will now go head-to-head in the doubles on Saturday with Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut taking on Serbian's Filip Krajinovic and Nenad Zimonjic.