Fernando Alonso gave Ferrari their first win in 11 races as a pit-stop blunder from Red Bull cost Sebastian Vettel another victory.
The British Grand Prix triumph was perfect timing for Ferrari as they today marked the anniversary of their maiden success in Formula One, coming 60 years ago at Silverstone.
By way of celebration Alonso today drove the car that carried Jose Froilan Gonzalez to victory that day, and three hours later he was savouring the fruits of his own success at the end of a stunning race.
At the death, on an enthralling last lap, Vettel just held off team-mate Mark Webber and now commands an 80-point cushion at the top of the standings over the Australian.
Behind them, Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa went wheel-to-wheel in the closing corners, even colliding with one another at one stage, only for the Briton to claim fourth by inches from the Brazilian.
It was a stunning conclusion to an enthralling grand prix and one that will have restored people's faith in the under-fire Hamilton, and persuaded spectators there may just be a fight on for the title after all.
For all the criticism Hamilton has faced - and advice to a certain degree - regarding his driving style, the opening few laps were vintage stuff from the 26-year-old.
Two incidents in the Monaco and Canadian Grands Prix, including a crash with team-mate Jenson Button, led to a fierce backlash from all and sundry ready to offer an opinion.
The conditions at Silverstone were ideal for Hamilton's bravery - dry on one part of the circuit, notably along the new pit straight, but wet in many others courtesy of a heavy shower around an hour before the start.
From a woeful 10th on the grid, his worst position for 26 races since last year's Malaysian Grand Prix, by the end of lap three Hamilton found himself chasing Massa for fourth.
On his home patch Hamilton had come alive, at one point brilliantly surging past Button, avoiding any impact on this occasion that would have led to further condemnation.
A mistake on lap four, however, did materialise as he attempted to pass Massa around the outside of Brooklands, only to run wide onto a new run-off area where in years previously there had been gravel.
It was a piece of good fortune Hamilton capitalised upon, although he did not have another opportunity for another eight laps.
Again, however, with the track starting to dry, and with teams and drivers considering switching to soft tyres from the intermediates they had started on, Hamilton ran wide at Brooklands.
But as the first pit stops unfolded, and the dry tyres became the rubber of choice, despite plumes of spray kicking up off the cars still in many areas, Hamilton netted fourth on strategy.
The manoeuvre that followed shortly after on Alonso epitomised his courage, diving down the inside of the Spaniard into Copse where it was still wet.
At virtually the same time Button passed Massa into Vale as McLaren enjoyed a double duel win over old rivals Ferrari at that point.
But with Hamilton it became the same old story of being unable to preserve his rubber as a flying Alonso reeled in the Briton on lap 22, forcing him to pit soon after for a fresh set of softs.
At that point Vettel led from Alonso, and neither man pitted for another three laps, at which stage there came the turning point of the race.
The Red Bull pit-crew, normally the fastest in F1, had problems in fitting the left-rear tyre to Vettel's car, allowing Alonso to grab the lead in the pit lane.
Even Hamilton was able to fly through into second, and for a brief moment as he closed to within a second of Alonso on the hotter tyres there were hopes of a pass to take the lead.
But the double world champion was swiftly up to speed, from which point Hamilton then proved to be a moving road block for Vettel as the German was unable to find a way past for nine laps.
Strategy again came to the fore as Vettel made his third stop early and was able to execute the undercut on Hamilton to claim second.
It was in that third round of stops that Button's race came to an end as he exited without a wheel nut to his front-right tyre, the fault of the lollipop man who released his man too early.
Alonso then pulled away easily to claim his 27th career win, joining Sir Jackie Stewart in fifth in the all-time standings.
Behind him the Red Bulls duelled, although Webber was told to 'maintain position' by his team on the final lap, as did Hamilton and Massa.
Alonso has at least closed the gap on Vettel to 92 points, but as for Hamilton and Button, they are now both 95 adrift.
As for Paul di Resta, his race was wrecked by two incidents in five minutes when he was on course for a potential seventh place in his Force India.
At his second stop his pit crew came out with the tyres that were meant for team-mate Adrian Sutil, losing considerable time as the right rubber was retrieved.
Soon after Sebastien Buemi ran over Di Resta's front wing, forcing him back into the pits for a new nose, whilst the Swiss driver had his left-rear tyre shredded in the accident, the Scot winding up 15th.Reuse content