FAITH HILL exploded in a rage after hubby TIM McGRAW publicly ditched his wedding ring during a Las Vegas appearance – and she’s fired back with a devastating ultimatum.

But as the marriage dangles by a thread, desperate Faith has turned to Tim’s close pal Kenny Chesney to comfort her and help save the 17-year union, The ENQUIRER has learned exclusively.

“Faith is heartbroken that her family is falling apart, and she was just blown away that Tim would take his ring off,” said a close source.

Pals say that Tim is getting sick and tired of Faith’s controlling ways and stuck it to her by posing without his wedding ring on the red carpet at the iHeartRadio Music Festival on Sept. 21. Making matters worse, it was Faith’s 46th birthday and she was back home caring for their three daughters.

“It was a declaration of war on Faith,” an insider said of Tim’s heartless act. “He stared straight at the cameras and didn’t bother to hide the fact that his wedding band was off.”

Within minutes, stunned friends let Faith know what Tim was up to at one of the country’s biggest music events – and all hell broke loose.

“Faith went berserk!” revealed a pal, adding that she phoned Tim with a blistering ultimatum: “Put the ring back on – or don’t come home!”

“She said if he wants to battle her for a divorce, she would take their kids and every cent he has. Her mes­sage was loud and clear.”

Faced with the prospect of a bitter $135 million divorce, Tim apparent­ly got the message. It also confirmed his nagging fears – that Faith has “spies” in his camp and he can’t make a move without her finding out about it!

“He took off the ring as an act of defiance, but it backfired,” said another close source. “He hadn’t removed it since they got married, and when he did, he knew it would humiliate Faith because she’s been insisting all along that everything is all right on the home front.

“But Tim wasn’t expecting the ultimatum, and he was extremely upset. He hadn’t thought it through, and after Faith told him she would ruin him, he realized he wasn’t ready to call it quits just yet.

“So when he performed on stage that night, he had the wedding ring back on. And he told Faith that he’d just left it in his dressing room after taking a shower. But she knew he was covering up.”

Now, friends are wondering if the “Highway Don’t Care” singer has fi­nally caused so much pain that there’s no turning back.

Despite the heartache, The ENQUIRER has  learned that Faith – mother of their daughters Gracie, 16, Maggie, 15 and Audrey, 11 – is making a dramatic, elev­enth-hour effort to save the badly battered marriage.

She’s turned to her husband’s old buddy, country superstar Kenny Chesney, plead­ing with him to talk to Tim to “find out what the hell is wrong with him,” divulged the insider.

“Faith asked Kenny, ‘What could Tim be thinking? Why is he telegraphing to the whole world that our marriage is in trouble?’

“It humiliated Faith to admit to Kenny that their marriage is floun­dering, but she’s so desperate to save her family she’s willing to try anything.

“Kenny comforted Faith and promised he would have a talk with Tim.”

But patching up the un­derlying problems will take a monumental effort, say ob­servers.

“Tim and Faith have been fighting more than ever before,” the in­sider told the ENQUIRER. “Sometimes they go days without speaking to each other.”

Faith can be too controlling, say sourc­es. She’s well aware of Tim’s roving eye and wants to keep him reined in. But he’s upset she forced him to put his be­loved 750-acre ranch in Franklin, Tenn. up for sale and get rid of old carousing buddies, add the sources.

“Faith has never trusted Tim,” the close source told The ENQUIRER, “but she’s pulled the reins too tight.

“When she first demanded he stop drinking, start working out and stop act­ing like a teenager, Tim went along with her. But now he wants his freedom back.”

To make matters even more difficult, 46-year-old Tim “is going through male menopause,” said the insider.

As a result, Faith is convinced he’s been flirting – or worse – with country cutie Taylor Swift, who is half Faith’s age.

“Tim keeps telling Faith there’s nothing to it,” a source said.

Faith also believes she deserves to be treated better by Tim in light of her own sacrifices. Once country music’s top female singer, with No. 1 hits such as “Breathe,” she’s watched her career slow to a crawl in recent years as she con­centrated on raising the couple’s daughters.

Soon, the shaky marriage could face its greatest test as the pair are slated to perform six months of weekend performances at Las Vegas’ Venetian Theatre, beginning Oct. 25.

“Faith and Tim seem to be keeping their marriage together for appearances and business reasons,” said the close source. “If there was an easy way for them to call it quits, this marriage would have been over a long time ago.”


Faith with Kenny Chesney