A world record had been predicted but Norway's Karsten Warholm had to utterly destroy it to hold off American Rai Benjamin and take gold on Tuesday in the men's 400 metres hurdles, in what will go down as one of the all-time great Olympic races.
Last month, Warholm broke Kevin Young's 29-year world mark with a time of 46.70 seconds but he blew his own record away with an astonishing 45.94 run. Benjamin pushed him all the way to take silver in 46.17, also half a second inside the old record.
Brazilian Alison dos Santos, 21, took bronze in 46.72, also inside Young's previous best, as six of the first seven finishers set national or continental records.
"You know the cliché that it hasn't sunk in yet? I don't think it has, but I feel ecstatic," Warholm said.
"I can't believe the time, it's so fast. A lot of the time I am asked about the perfect race. I said it didn't exist but this is the closest I've ever come.
"I told myself going in to the race, remember all the work you have put in. It was the only thing missing from my [medal] collection. I can't describe how important this is for me. This is what I do morning until night, it's huge."
The new carbon-technology shoes may be contributing to the rash of blazing times being seen in Tokyo but even if they had been running barefoot, the two great rivals would have put on a show to remember.
Double world champion Warholm runs every race as if he is trying to break the world record and on home soil in Oslo last month he finally got Young's 1992 Barcelona Olympics mark off the books - and seemingly a weight off his shoulders.
With Benjamin posting 46.83 in the U.S. trials, the record was widely expected to be broken in Tokyo, but nobody could have predicted the massive bites both men took.
In perfect conditions, the two 25-year-olds hurdled beautifully and were side-by-side coming into the final straight, only for Warholm to forge clear.
Eyes bulging at the world record time flashed up on the big screen, Warholm roared and spontaneously ripped open his shirt amid gasps from sparse pockets of fellow athletes and team officials at a stadium empty of spectators because of coronavirus rules.
There were national records for British Virgin Islands' Kyron McMaster in fourth, Turkey's Cuban-born 2017 world silver medallist Yasmani Copello in sixth and Estonian Rasmus Magi in seventh.
Qatar's 2019 world bronze medallist Abderrahman Samba, one of the four runners to have dipped under 47 seconds in his career, was fifth in a season's best of 47.12.
Warholm described his gold medal as defining everything he does.
"I dream about it like a maniac," he said. "I sleep all night on it. I spend all my time thinking about this, so just getting this last medal into my collection, it's complete."
Warholm added: "I didn't touch one hurdle. I was even able to find another gear coming home, so 'wow'. It's just so big. It's almost like history here.
"The Olympic gold medal is what everybody talks about. I knew this race was going to be the toughest of my life, but I was ready."
Benjamin said the race even topped the 100m final at the 2009 world championships in Berlin, at which Usain Bolt set a new 100m record of 9.58sec.
"That was the best race in Olympic history," he said. "I don't even think Usain Bolt's 9.5 topped that. Three guys pretty much broke the world record. 45.9 man, 46.1 and lost.
"If you told me I'd run 46.1 and lose I'd probably beat you up and tell you to get out of my room!"
Benjamin added that Warholm was "amazing". "You can't be mad at that at all. As a competitor it hurts a lot, but that's just the nature of the sport."