Mark Cavendish sprinted to a stunning victory at the end of a crash-strewn fifth stage of the Tour de France.
The 164.5 kilometres route from Carhaix to Cap Frehel on the Brittany coast came down to a dramatic bunch sprint and it was HTC-Highroad rider Cavendish who timed his effort to perfection, coming from a long way back to cut down his rivals.
Team Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen jumped out of the pack with around 700 metres remaining and for a moment it looked as if he might hang on for the victory.
However he was caught by the yellow jersey of fellow Norwegian Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) with 150 metres remaining, only for Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) to power past themselves.
But the decisive move was still to be made as Cavendish first picked up the wheel of Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) before unleashing a devastating burst to the line to land the spoils.
Gilbert and Rojas took second and third, Tony Gallopin (Cofidis) was fourth, Thomas fifth and André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) filled sixth.
There were no major changes at the top of the overall standings, with Hushovd still leading by a second from Cadel Evans (BMC Racing). Brits David Millar (Garmin-Cervelo), Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and Thomas all remain in the top 10.
Cav a class apart
"That wasn't a bunch sprint - it was proper hard!" said a delighted Cavendish after winning his 16th stage at the Tour de France to move into the top 10 of the all-time list.
"I think what the organisers have done this year is to make it harder to make a proper bunch sprint. I think that's because we were dominating last year.
"That was really hard at the finish. You saw [Philippe] Gilbert was there, [Thor] Hushovd was there and [Jose Joaquin] Rojas was there. You could see what type of finish it was.
"I thought 'I'll just go' and I had my jump and my acceleration. It was probably better for me to be further back as I got a run up. It's always nice to overcome adversity and doubt. I'm really really happy to win.
"They guys all did a tremendous job - although it wasn't the lead-out train you usually see at the finish, they had worked so well all day to keep the pace high and keep it strung out. That's what made the difference."
It was an eventful finish but so much drama had already happened well before that point, with a host of big names caught up in crashes.
Team Sky leader Wiggins was halted by an incident around 105km from the finish which featured 10 riders, including Sylvain Chavanel (QuickStep) and Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), and lost around one minute as he changed his bike before being paced back to the peloton by five team-mates.
Wiggins then reverted back to his original bike after the Team Sky mechanics attended to the damage.
The Briton was not the only podium hopeful involved in a collision as Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and RadioShack's Janez Brajkovic fell in another incident.
Slovenian Brajkovic appeared dazed and required medical attention before becoming the second rider to abandon the 2011 Tour, prematurely ending his hopes of a high overall classification.
Defending Tour champion Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) also took a tumble on the tight roads in Brittany, with the Spaniard also requiring a bike change.
And no sooner had Contador rejoined the main pack, his teammate Nicki Sørensen, who had done much of the work to pace him back to the bunch, saw his bike get tangled up with a motorbike riding alongside the peloton.
As the race travelled along the coastline, featuring undulating terrain, narrow roads with technical turns, street furniture and blustery winds, further crashes seemed almost inevitable and Tom Boonen (QuickStep) went down with 57km to go, apparently damaging both his right shoulder and hip, and he was to trail in well adrift of the peloton.
The attacks then began with more than 30km remaining, with Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Jérémy Roy (FDJ) breaking clear.
The duo established a one-minute gap as HTC-Highroad and Garmin-Cervelo led the chase.
Team Sky, with Juan Antonio Flecha towing Wiggins, and Evans' BMC Racing, were also to the fore and Roy was caught before Voeckler's resistance ended with 1.7km to go to set up the enthralling finale.
Almost forgotten in amongst was an incident earlier in the day when Cavendish was thwarted at the intermediate sprint.
After the day's four-man breakaway swept the first points available, HTC-Highroad led Cavendish to within striking distance.
But the Manxman, who was disqualified from the intermediate sprint two days previously, was blocked by green jersey incumbent Rojas and Boonen as he attempted to accelerate outside the duo.
And Rojas and Boonen were later to find themselves relegated for obstructing their rival after moving to the left of the road, nudging Cavendish out of contention.
That means that it's Gilbert who now heads the points classification rather than Rojas.
Cavendish sat up, rolling over the intermediate sprint line and gestured towards their pair. When asked about the incident he simply said: "Consistency is all I ask for."