Britain had dared to dream of a third gold medal in Moscow. This was billed as a showdown between Perri Shakes-Drayton and Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic, the finale to the former's coming-of-age season.
In the end, from a British perspective, it ended with clattered hurdles and shattered dreams as Shakes-Drayton injured her left knee early in the race, struggled throughout and limped over the line.
Even had the Londoner managed to make it over all 10 hurdles cleanly and injury-free, she was never going to be a match for Hejnova, who won by over a second in a truly dominant display of exquisite hurdling technique.
It could not have been in starker contrast to Shakes-Drayton, who went in lane five with the fast-starting American Lashinda Demus inside her. Sally Gunnell had been the last British female to win the 400m hurdles world title, in Stuttgart 20 years ago, and beforehand had advised Shakes-Drayton to run her own race and not go off too fast.
In truth, she never had the chance. Over the first hurdle her knee "just felt funny". Whereas in the heats and semi-finals she had sailed through with ease to break her duck of qualifying for a first major global final, where a medal seemed to beckon, come the final she stumbled over the line in seventh.
"I'm gutted obviously," she said. "I was going so well. It felt so good but, in the race, it went wrong. Before I hit the hurdle, I felt it [her knee] and I lost control – I don't know what's wrong with it. It's not the way I would have liked to have finished. But tonight after the first bend, I was just going back and back and back. I don't really know what happened."
Despite the knee problem, on which she had an ultrasound scan in the bowels of the Luzhniki Stadium afterwards, she remained in contention, improving in the back straight and initially holding off the challenge of Demus. But at hurdle six, things again went awry with her rhythm and she hit the subsequent obstacle heavily. From there, she steadily went backwards, crossing the line three and a half seconds behind Hejnova.
Shakes-Drayton's race will have major ramifications for Britain's medal count. UK Sport has set a medal target of six at these Worlds. Another gold looks on the cards for Mo Farah in tomorrow night's 5,000m but, the women's 4x400m and men's 4x100m relays aside, it is difficult to see where the medals will come from. Even those relay ones are somewhat in doubt, particularly bearing in mind the sprint relay runners' penchant for dropping the baton.
Eilidh Child was the first Briton across the line in fifth place, just half a second off a medal, but was left knowing that a personal best would have been enough to get her on the podium. "If I'd run how I've been running then I would have got on that podium but that's just the way championships go," she said.
Hannah England came even closer to a medal in the 1500m final, ending her race in fourth place and unable to repeat her heroics two years ago in Daegu, where she came away with a silver medal. On times alone, a medal had not been an expectation, more a hope. But in a race awash with pushing and shoving throughout, she held the inside line and produced her trademark fast finish for a fourth place, a good second off a medal.
"It's hard to watch other girls get a lap of honour," she said afterwards with tears streaming down her cheeks. "It's obviously where I want to be. It's still good, it's a lot better than last year," a reference to the Achilles problem that effectively cost her the chance of an Olympic medal in London.
"I'm pleased coming fourth in the world – it's a very good achievement especially from what happened last year," she added. "I'll have to watch the race back and see whether I did as well as I could do. I felt like I got a clean run so I can't use that as an excuse at all. I didn't get bumped around. I think a long sleep and lots of cake and I'll feel a lot better tomorrow."
Moscow must-sees: Friday's highlights
6.45am BST Women's 100m hurdles heats (S Pearson, T Porter)
7.35am Men's 200m heats (J Ellington, A Gemili, D Williams, U Bolt)
8.30am Women's 4x400m relay (Great Britain & Northern Ireland)
4pm Women's hammer final
4.05pm Men's 1,500m semi-final (C O'Hare)
4.30pm Men's long-jump final (A Menkov)
4.40pm Men's 200m semi-finals
5.15pm Women's 800m semi-final (L Muir, M Okoro)
5.45pm Men's 5,000m final (M Farah)
6.15pm Women's 200m final
6.30pm Men's 4x400m final
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