Cilic, the world number seven and a recent participant in the eight man ATP Finals in London, rampaged past a physically hampered Tsonga, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
Croatia will clinch their second Davis Cup title if their doubles pair of Mate Kovic and Ivan Dodig can beat Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert on Saturday.
"They were superior," said Noah. “They beat us and it was that simple. The idea now is to give ourselves a chance to survive until the third day.”
Noah, who is bidding to become only the third man to captain a side to four Davis Cup titles, added: “If I’m having any negative thoughts I’ve got to put them aside and devote all my energy into motivating the doubles team.
“They’ve got a difficult match but they’re an experienced team and we will fight to hold on. We’re not finished until the final point.”
Noah’s gamble to field the 40th ranked Chardy instead of the world number 32 Lucas Pouille against the fast rising Coric backfired spectacularly in a nightmare opening 20 minutes of the final.
Chardy led 40-0 in his first service game. But from that position of strength got bogged down in a 12 minute battle of attrition. Coric, who has twice beaten Roger Federer in 2018, broke to lead and the 31-year-old Frenchman then lost 14 points in succession to trail 0-4.
He did get on the board but lost the set 6-2 in 36 minutes. There appeared to be no way back once he dropped the second.
Cilic, who squandered a two set lead in the 2016 final against Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro, exorcised those demons in a convincing dismissal of a valiant but underpowered Tsonga.
Once a world number five, the 33-year-old Frenchman offered glimpses of his brawny brio.
But the cameos only served to underline Cilic’s mastery. "I didn't lose my serve in the match and I played outstanding tennis throughout," said Cilic.
While the Croatian declared himself ready and able to play in the doubles on Saturday as well as Sunday’s singles, Tsonga might not feature again in the final. He will have tests on Saturday to assess the extent of a groin strain suffered in the third set of the match with Cilic.
“Once I know what it is, I’ll be able to say if I can play or not,” said Tsonga.
“The Croatians were just on a different level,” Noah reflected. “On paper their players are better and that’s what we’ve seen.
“It’s not like we’ve lost two matches which lasted five sets in which we had chances to win. We did not even see the finishing line. We have been way behind.”