Usain Bolt blasted to his third straight Olympic 100 metres title as he took gold in 9.81 seconds in Rio.
The Jamaican had to work harder than expected to see off the challenge of American Justin Gatlin, though, after a sluggish start left him trailing at halfway.
But he powered through to land his seventh Olympic gold medal, with Gatlin taking silver in 9.89secs and Canada’s Andre de Grasse bronze in 9.91s.
Victory on a warm night at the Olympic Stadium kept alive Bolt’s bid for the ‘triple triple’ of sprint crowns on track.
Bolt, so often dubbed the saviour of the sport in his battle with two-time drug cheat Gatlin, had looked in imperious form in his semi-final and on course to go much quicker.
But, after, even by his standards, an awful start, times went out the window. Chasing down his American rival was all that mattered.
He only pulled it off in the final few metres, but the margin was clear enough to allow him to race off on a lap of honour, posing for selfies on the way.
Bolt took to the track moments after Wayde van Niekerk’s stunning 400m world record of 43.03. The biggest name in the sport was in serious danger of being upstaged. And in truth he was.
Bolt ran out to roars from the crowd, spreading his arms wide as he lapped up the acclaim.
Chants of ‘Bolt, Bolt, Bolt’ rang out as the athletes waited to take to their blocks.
Gatlin, in contrast, was met with a chorus of boos. He was unmoved, Bolt relaxed.
But you got the impression last year’s World Championships were Gatlin’s one chance to deny Bolt gold. The Jamaican was not at his best, the American was flying and the victory the sport least wanted looked possible, likely even.
But Gatlin blew it in the final strides, Bolt came through to win and that was that
Bolt’s time was a season’s best, but his slowest winning mark in a global 100m final. His previous Olympic final times were 9.69 in Beijing, then a world record, and an Olympic record 9.63 in London.
Competing in his final Olympics, with his plan to retire after next year’s World Championships in London, he told the BBC: “I’m really happy but I expected to go faster. I’m just happy that I won and that’s the key thing.
“After the semi-final I felt extremely good. I wanted to run faster but with the turnaround time, we normally have two hours, but we had one hour 20 minutes, it was challenging. This is what we train for. I told you guys I was going to do it. Stay tuned, two more to go.”
On the boos for Gatlin, he said: “I was surprised. It is the first time I have come into a stadium and they booed someone. It was shocking.”
Gatlin, the Olympic champion in 2004 before Bolt’s domination commenced, said: “At the age of 34, to race these young guys and still make the podium feels so good.”