Wilder had Fury on the canvas twice, including a spectacular final round knockdown, but was unable to get the knockout victory he had promised to deliver at the Staples Center.
Fury was seemingly done as he lay motionless on the canvas in the 12th after a powerful right from Wilder caught him flush and the American followed it up with a devastating left hook.
But the Englishman somehow got to his feet and beat the count of referee Jack Reiss, and even looked to finish a tiring Wilder himself in the final round, catching him several times.
Fury celebrated wildly at the final bell, while Wilder also gestured that he believed he had won.
In the end it was announced there was a split decision before it was declared a draw. The three judges were divided on the outcome, with one scoring it 115-111 for Wilder, another 114-110 for Fury and the third 113-113.
Tyson Fury could offer at least five good reasons why victory over Deontay Wilder in Los Angeles on Saturday night would rank among the greatest boxing comebacks.
Fury has had to battle a series of out-of-the-ring distractions as he seeks to reclaim the world title he won – and never officially relinquished – against Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at some of the challenges Fury has had to overcome in order to return to the big time and the quest to become world champion once again.
Fury was embroiled in a two-year drugs case which contributed to the cancellation of a prospective re-match with Klitschko in late 2016. Fury was found to have tested positive for nandrolone but ultimately accepted back-dated two-year bans which enabled him to return to the sport in December 2017.
Fury has fought a much-publicised battle with depression, admitting it escalated out of control in the wake of his famous win over Klitschko. He admitted to binge-drinking and taking cocaine. “I was rich, successful, young, healthy, had a family, fame – everything a man could dream of – but I was still depressed,” said Fury.
Fury caused anger in a series of interviews and video clips in 2015. Widespread calls were made for Fury to be removed from the shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards. Fury subsequently apologised for his controversial comments.
Year ago today was moving about with tyson, he was 26 stone plus telling me he was coming back, next Saturday he fights for the wbc heavyweight title, he's some man pic.twitter.com/cfT7BF9ZZ1— Papi De La Half Gas Tank (@davidthewhiter1) November 23, 2018
Fury piled on the pounds after beating Klitschko as he faced up to a significant period outside the sport. After his low-key return win over Sefer Seferi in June, Fury revealed he had shed an incredible eight and a half stone to get back into fighting shape – having tipped the scales at 27 and a half stone at his heaviest.
Questions over Fury’s form threatened to slow his quest to regain his world heavyweight title. As expected, he looked less than impressive in his facile win over Seferi, and also failed to put away the lumbering Italian Franceso Pianeta in August – but the Wilder bout proved just too big to turn down.
The 30-year-old Fury remained relaxed throughout as, similarly to when he dressed as Batman to promote his fight with the similarly-bemused Wladimir Klitschko, he got to his feet and goaded the champion.
Wilder, uncharacteristically, became increasingly angry until his aggressive confrontation with a then-smiling Fury.
The two fighters’ entourages became involved as shoves were exchanged and the challenger removed his shirt.
There was little question that Fury had consistently remained the more composed of the two, but he later insisted Wilder was attempting to provoke him to throw a punch that could have left Saturday’s fight in jeopardy.
Wilder remains undefeated in his 40 fights as a professional but Fury, at Los Angeles’ Staples Centre, will represent his most challenging opponent, and he said: “I believe Wilder wanted me to aim the left hook so that the fight would be cancelled.
“He wanted to trick me into hitting him so that he could get out of the fight. I’m not going to make that mistake; I’m not going to lose my purse.
“He knows he can’t win and it’s clear for everyone to see now. He’s a very nervous character and by the looks of it he doesn’t want to fight. He talks a good game but he talks nonsense really.
“He wanted me to get a massive fine but I’m not that stupid. He’s rattled and he knows he’s getting an a*** kicking.”
“Wilder’s nervous; he felt he needed to scream and shout and make threats. We’re fighting men but he had his big team there.
“We’re not afraid of anyone, if you want to fight on the street or the stage that’s fine, but we’re here to do a job for sport and be professional.”