The Thais' win-loss record slipped to 2-2 but they had already qualified for the second round and won many new fans for this battling display full of dynamic digs and defence and punishing spikes from their whirlwind attackers.
Michelle Bartsch-Hackley led the American scoring with 23 points, including 17 spikes, and middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo added 17 points with seven blocks.
For Thailand, Kongyot Ajcharaporn top-scored with 23 points but suffered a knee injury and left the arena in a wheelchair. Kanthong Malika and captain Thinkaow Pleumjit both scored 14 points.
The Americans made a great start against Thailand, who were missing their injured leading scorer Kokram Pimpichaya. Michelle Bartsch-Hackley was quickly into her attacking groove on the left, and middle blockers Foluke Akinradewo and Rachael Adams both showed their skill with quality spikes.
The USA block was efficient from the first whistle and the Thai spikers were pressured into errors, notably Kanthong Malika and Sittirak Onuma. The Americans led 16-8 at the second TTO but called a TO at 19-14 after a Pleumjit-inspired Thai team fought back in typical style.
The Americans regrouped, returned and romped away to claim the first set 25-17.
In the second set, Thailand continued to be thwarted by the superb USA block and also had problems with the swirling serves of Akinradewo. The large and noisy group of Thai supporters high in the arena had little to cheer about in the second set as the USA reached the second TTO ahead 16-7.
It was plain sailing for the USA, who built on this lead with a crashing spike from southpaw Kelly Murphy on the right, a crunching Akinradewo block and an Adams ace.
The spring-heeled Wilavan and ever-alert captain Pleumjit lifted Thai spirits for a while but winners were few and far between as the Thais were made to work overtime for every point. The USA closed out the second set 25-16 for 2-0.
The third set brought a remarkable turnaround as the Thai block toughened up and the defence became more coordinated.
As the Thais battled their way back, the noise levels in the stands grew significantly louder as the Thai supporters realised all was not lost.
The Thais stayed close through Kongyot Ajcharaporn, Wilavan and Pleumjit and the gap was only two points, 16-14, at the second TTO.
The Americans were labouring at this point, having been knocked out of their rhythm, and amazingly Thailand held three set points at 24-21.
Needless to say they relied on the skipper Pleumjit to finish the job 25-23 at the third time of asking and pick up Thailand's first set of the match to reduce the deficit to 2-1.
Now the Americans had a real match on their hands in what was becoming a fascinating battle of styles.
Akinradewo, captain Jordan Larson and Murphy tried to restore order as the USA held a slender advantage, 16-15, at the second TTO as Wilavan, Malika and Ajcharaporn maintained Thailand's high-speed attacks.
The Thais were jumping for joy when a Pleumjit block took them to 19-18, forcing the USA into a TO. When play resumed, Ajcharaporn had to be carried from the court after slipping - a worrying moment for the team.
They put this upset behind them and again finished strongly to win the set 25-21 thanks to some incredible digging and defence that baffled the Americans as the ball just kept coming back. With amazing agility, they finished off the moves with some piercing spikes through the USA defence.
Murphy's spiking and blocking proved decisive as the USA turned around ahead 8-6 ahead and the Thai serve spluttered down the home stretch.
With three match points at 14-11, Kimberly Hill finished it down the middle for 3-2 USA.