Jackson had reached the final as the fastest qualifier. There have been some major championships, notably the 1992 Olympics, where he has failed to deliver in the final, but on this occasion he dug deep into his physical and mental reserves to challenge the champion all the way to the line.
The American won in 12.93sec, 0.02sec slower than the world record Jackson set in winning this title four years ago. Jackson clocked 13.05, by far his best of the season. He thus brought Britain's medal tally at these championships to three silvers.
Jackson has not won a medal at a major championships since 1994, when he took Commonwealth and European gold. At that point, even though he had failed to win the Olympic title, he was unquestionably the finest sprint hurdler in the world. A series of injuries over recent years, and a bitter feud with the British Athletic Federation have diminished his effectiveness.
Johnson has come through to establish himself as the event's No 1. He remains that, but Jackson can take huge satisfaction in his performance.
Britain's misfortune with illness and injury continued yesterday when it was revealed that Richard Nerurkar was a doubtful starter in Sunday's marathon because of a viral complaint.
It is a hugely unfortunate turn of events for a runner whose dedication has brought him a highly consistent record in major championships. What is more, Nerurkar has shown he can perform in the hot and humid conditions which the runners will have to endure in Sunday's route from Marathon itself to Athens. He finished fifth in last year's Olympics and seventh in the 1995 World Championships.
Earlier in the day, Ukraine's world shot put champion, Aleksandr Bagach, was stripped of his gold medal and $60,000 (pounds 38,000) prize-money after the second doping offence of his career. Bagach, the Olympic bronze medallist, tested positive for a banned stimulant, ephedrine, which would have entailed a three-month ban before the International Amateur Athletic Federation altered their rules shortly before these championships.
Thus, the 30-year-old Ukrainian, who served a two-year ban after his test showed excessive testosterone at the European Cup in Gateshead eight years ago, got off with a public warning. Bagach, who equalled his personal best of 21.47m in Sunday's final, said afterwards he could not believe his performance.
John Godina, of the United States, who took part here on a wild card entry as the defending champion, was promoted to the gold medal position. Oliver Sven-Buder of Germany took silver, and another American, C J Hunter, fiance of the new world 100m champion Marion Jones, received the bronze.
Greeks bearing gifts came to the hotel door of Britain's javelin silver medallist Steve Backley yesterday, delivering a box of women's lingerie and what he described as "hate mail". After securing his medal with a final throw which demoted Kostas Gatfioudis, the vociferously supported home thrower, to bronze medal position, Backley said: "I was delighted to stuff the Greek."
In response, Backley was sent a letter offering best wishes for him to win gold in the women's javelin. "At this final, you can win a medal, it suits you. And then Go Home. There you may watch the videotape where thousands of Greek fans applaud you when you receive the silver medal. And don't come back. Honestly, we won't miss you."
Backley took the reproof in good heart. "I'm keeping the letter as a memento. I'm going to frame it and keep it in the toilet." He didn't say what he was planning to do with the lingerie.