Two of Britain's remaining hopes of a further World Championship medal fell away in the space of a single minute here last night as Darren Campbell's and Chris Tomlinson's ambitions were jolted out of kilter. British misery in a rainswept Stade de France was compounded when Chris Rawlinson, an outside hope of making the top three in the 400m hurdles, could only finish sixth.
It was certainly the most disappointing night of what has so far been a largely disappointing Championships for a British team which has just one silver and one bronze so far.
An extra burden of responsibility now lies on the broad shoulders of the Olympic silver medallist Steve Backley, who safely negotiated his way into tomorrow's javelin final, and the men's sprint relay team.
Campbell, hoping to add a 200 metres medal to the bronze he won in Monday night's 100 metres, failed by one hundredth of a second as Japan's Shingo Suetsugu took third place ahead of him in a race won by John Capel, of the United States, in 20.30sec.
Even before the 29-year-old Olympic silver medallist was aware of his placing, however, on the runway alongside the finishing straight, Tomlinson's fate in the long jump competition tilted and tipped as Saudi Arabia's Hussain Taher Al-Sabee pushed the 21-year-old Briton one place below the cut for a final three jumps with an effort of 8.09 metres.
Tomlinson had put himself under extreme pressure by no-jumping on his first two attempts, but then the man known by his coach, Peter Stanley, as Last Jump Johnnie because of his propensity for getting himself out of difficulties at the last minute recovered his fortunes with an effort of 7.93 metres, rising from the pit and punching up two fists in relief.
The 6ft 6in Middlesbrough athlete had established himself just inside the top eight jumpers designated to go forward for three final jumps, but as first man to go in the third round he still required all four competitors below him in the standings not to better the distance.
Bogdan Tarus appeared to have moved past Tomlinson with his third round effort, but the red flag waved as officials ruled the Romanian had fouled with his toe. Tarus was incensed, debating the issue with the judges as they inspected the plasticine marker to the point where it seemed the field jump events might be about to witness their own version of the Jon Drummond incident, in which the US sprinter held up the track programme for more than half an hour in protest at his 100m disqualification.
Once Tarus said farewell, however, Tomlinson appeared to be living up to his nickname until the Saudi athlete, with the last jump of the round, turned him from a medal contender into a sad figure in a tracksuit and kitbag making an early exit from the arena.
"I just ballsed it up," Tomlinson said. "I know everybody's been building me up, but I just didn't get it right tonight. Physically I feel fine but mentally it wasn't there.
"I couldn't bear to look when Al-Sabee was taking his third jump, but when he got out of the sand I knew I was out of here. I'm gutted."
Dwight Phillips, of the United States, took the gold with a fifth-round effort of 8.32m immediately after losing his lead to Jamaica's James Beckford, whose 8.28m earned him silver.
Campbell went into the 200 metres buoyed by his run in the 100 metres and seeking to become the first British male to win individual medals in two events at the same World Championship. But his fierce ambition was denied by Japan's runner despite a final, straining twist for the line.
Having run a season's best of 20.34sec to reach the final, Campbell, drawn in lane two, could only record 20.39sec on a track still patched with water from the earlier downpour.
"It's a shame I didn't win a medal, but I've won so many of those close finishes," Campbell said. "I was always going to lose one it's unfortunate it hapened tonight.
"I haven't been able to sleep since the 100 metres. I've been running this race in my mind hundreds of times. It's been impossible trying to keep all my emotions in check.
"That is something I will take from these championships for next year's Olympics. There are more medals to come from me yet. The guys who beat me tonight didn't run the 100 metres. They were fresher, so to get so close to them shows the strength I've got."
The two top medals went to Americans, as Capel was followed home by team-mate Darvis Patton in 20.31sec, providing the United States team with something of which to be proud after their disappointing showing in the 100m final.
"This is exactly what we planned," said Capel, a former American Football player with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Bears. "US sprinting is back on top where it belongs. We are in good shape and I know that we can win the relay no matter what."
Neither American was any more jubilant than the 24-year-old Japanese, who greeted the delayed news of his placing with a scream of delight, raising his fists in triumph as Campbell, who had squatted on his haunches facing the infield as the judges made their deliberations, walked reflectively off behind him.
"I can not believe it, it is simply amazing," said Suetsugu, who won the Asian Championships last year and has a personal best of 20.03sec. "It is a great day, and my journey and hard work towards Athens starts here and now."
Rawlinson also has more hard work to do on the road to Athens. In a race won with ease in 47.25sec by the defending champion Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic, the 30-year-old Rotherham athlete dropped out of contention for the minor medals on the run-in, finishing, dejected, in 48.90sec.Reuse content