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, who was loudly booed by the crowd, 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, including one with Jessica Ennis-Hill, who had just received her silver medal for the heptathlon before the 100m started.
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 by the young South African who has spent time training with Bolt and was congratulated by the Jamaican afterwards after breaking Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old mark.
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.
This season the world’s fastest man has looked more like his old self, despite having to miss the Jamaican trials with a hamstring strain.
He had maintained ahead of the Games that he was in much better shape than last year. And it showed.
He was in cruise control in his heat on Saturday, upped the ante considerably by no more than cantering to a season’s best 9.86 in the semi-finals, even managing a grin as he glanced right and left, and looked set to go seriously quick in the final.
That did not materialise, but Bolt, whatever the situation, knows how to win.
Gatlin had run the fastest two times in the world coming into the Games, but they were meaningless. He had the five fastest times in the world last year, but Bolt still took the gold medals.
Bolt had taken to social media ahead of the Games in a bid to drum up ticket sales and, after plenty of empty seats at the start of the evening, the crowds flocked to the 56,000-capacity stadium in time to see him.
In the last week, as the circus that surrounds him has rolled into Rio, he has strutted his stuff with scantily-clad samba dancers and been serenaded by a Norwegian journalist-cum-freestyle rapper.
It is all in a day’s work for sport’s great entertainer.
Last night, though, there was no joking around. It was down to business.
“I am a living legend,” Bolt had declared after retaining his Olympic sprint titles at London 2012. He is now well on his way to a whole new level of greatness.