Michael Matthews won stage six of the Giro d’Italia to extend his overall lead after capitalising on a huge crash in the peloton with 11km remaining.
More than half of the field was brought down in the incident and with hordes of others being held up behind, only eight riders remained at the head of the race leading on to the final climb to Montecassino.
Both Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) and fellow Australian Cadel Evans (BMC) survived the carnage and, rather than sit and wait, they opted to keep driving on at top speed.
Matthews subsequently sprinted to victory ahead of second-placed Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol) and third-placed Evans, but story of the day was the consequences of the crash for the general classification contenders who were affected.
Joaquim Rodriguez fell heavily and although he remounted his bike to cross the line 7min 43sec after Matthews, he suffered two fractured ribs and a broken thumb, and later abandoned the race.
Ireland's Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) avoided serious injury but lost a collossal 15min 8sec, while Michele Scarponi (Astana) will count himself lucky by comparison to have shed only 1min 37sec. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) got off even more lightly after losing just 49 seconds apiece.
Roche tweeted afterwards: "Hard time today.. But nothing broken.. Give me a few days and i will be ready to go on the attack again."
The biggest winner of the day was arguably Evans, who is now second overall, 21 seconds behind Matthews, but crucially, his advantage over third-placed Uran has grown to 57 seconds, while he leads Quintana by 1min 47sec.
Rain had begun to fall just minutes before the crash, and with now slippery roads being compounded by a fresh injection of pace in the pack ahead of the final climb, an incident was almost inevitable.
Its huge scale, though, was alarming, and when television cameras flashed back from the scattered bodies to the remaining leaders, it became evident that only a handful of riders had survived unscathed.
The eight men in front instantly looked to capitalise on their fortune by driving a fierce pace, while behind, a chase group of about 40 riders formed and were led up the lower slopes of the 10km climb to the summit finish by Quintana's Movistar team.
The two groups were separated by 33 seconds, but despite the greater numbers of those behind, the chasers were unable to make inroads. The ascent was also not steep enough - averging 5.1 per cent - for the pure climbers to set off in lone pursuit, which meant the likes of Quintana were better served sticking with the bunch than attacking.
Only four riders were left from the original lead eight as they entered the final kilometre, and with Matthews by far the most accomplished sprinter of the quartet, he had little trouble in claiming a first Giro stage win.
Stage six result
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, 6:37:01
2 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Belisol, same time
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC, st
4 Matteo Rabottini (Ita) Neri Sottoli, st
5 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica-GreenEdge, +13sec
6 Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC, +23
7 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin, +49
8 Mauro Finetto (Ita) Neri Sottoli, st
9 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida, st
10 Fabio Duarte (Col) Colombia, st
15 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, +49
19 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, st
89 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, +7:43
171 Nicolas Roche (Ire) Tinkoff-Saxo, 15:08
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, 24:18:14
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC, +21sec
3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, +1:18
4 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo, +1:25
5 Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC, +same time
6 Matteo Rabottini (Ita) Neri Sottoli, st
7 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica-GreenEdge, +1:47
8 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, +1:51
9 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Belisol, +1:52
10 Ivan Basso (Ita) Cannondale, +2:06
11 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +2:08