Italy’s Matteo Trentin pipped Peter Sagan to victory in a photo finish on stage seven of the Tour de France, as Vincenzo Nibali retained his overall lead of the race.
Trentin benefited from a superb lead-out from his Omega Pharma – Quick-Step team-mates and narrowly held off a surging Sagan in a reduced-bunch sprint by less than the width of a tyre.
Nibali managed to stay safe in a frantic finale containing two late climbs and also avoided two crashes, to ensure he retains his two-second lead over his Astana team-mate Jakob Fuglsang at the top of the general classification.
Sagan, who continues his run of finishing in the top five on every stage of the race so far, remains third overall, 44 seconds adrift.
Trentin said afterwards: "It was only on the photo finish that I saw that I won, by about a centimetre and a half. It was a really stressful run-in to the line. I couldn't see who was alongside me, I didn't know who was taking the pace up.
"Thanks to Tony Martin and Jan Bakelants, I managed to get myself into the position right at the end to come out on top. I did use a lot of energy up to get this victory, but after so much bad luck, it was really good for us to get a victory today."
At 234.5km, stage seven was the second longest of the race and took the riders on a largely flat route from Epernay to Nancy. However, two category-four climbs in the final 20km took the advantage away from pure sprinters such as Marcel Kittel and opened the door for all-rounders such as Sagan and Simon Gerrans.
The race came to life on the first climb, the Cote de Maron, when an upping in the pace saw the sprinters dropped and the peloton whittled down for the first time.
Sagan burns out
After general classification contender Tejay van Garderen had crashed on the descent, the main bunch was blown apart on the second climb, the Cote de Boufflers, when the likes of Sagan, Nibali, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde and Richie Porte all set a fierce pace up the steep 1.3km ascent.
Sagan then followed an attack from Greg van Avermaet just below the summit and the pair quickly built up a lead of about ten seconds, but with 5.5km of downhill and then flat to finish still remaining, they were unable to hold off a chasing group of about 30 riders.
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step quickly assembled a lead-out train and with Sagan having burnt vital energy in his ill-fated escape attempt, Trentin was able to hold off the Slovakian and heavy pre-stage favourite by the slenderist of margins.
Nibali said: "There's no such thing as an easy stage. It was a very fast speed and there were a few falls, so it was quite stressful at the end. I'm feeling very good. The important thing is to have got through this very long day without having any accidents."
Stage seven result
1 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, 05:18:39
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale, same time
3 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Belisol, st
4 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Shimano, st
5 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, st
6 Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC, st
7 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Europcar, st
8 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling, st
9 Sep Vanmarcke (Ned) Belkin, st
10 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC, st
1 Vincenzo Niabli (Ita) Astana, 29:57:04
2 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, +2secs
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale, +44
4 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, +50
5 Jurgen van den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol, +1:45
6 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Belisol, same time
7 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky, +1:54
8 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp, +2:05
9 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, +2:11
10 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, same time