Jessica Ennis had already performed her victory lap and Mo Farah was circling the track in the 10,000m when the red flag was raised at the long jump pit and the final threat to Greg Rutherford, the last attempt by American Will Claye, was ruled invalid. Gold No 2 was in the bag on this night of nights for British athletics. No 3 was not long in following.
Just when you thought it could not get any more dramatic, the electric evening cranked up to fever pitch. Ennis' gold in the heptathlon had been expected. Rutherford's in the long jump was a possibility but the 25-year-old from Milton Keynes had been held back by injury and inconsistency ever since he took silver as a teenager at the European Championships in Gothenburg in 2006.
Not last night. With a fourth-round jump of 8.31m, the one-time Aston Villa triallist claimed a glorious victory, emulating Lynn Davies' winning feat in the same event at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. There might have been a second British medal but Chris Tomlinson was edged down to sixth with 8.07m.
Still, the evening got better. The 10,000m was a slow-burning cracker. The Eritreans and the Kenyans injected bursts at the front but there were still 10 men in contention as the last of the 25 laps approached. It was at that point Farah made his move, stealing to the front and winding up the pace by degrees. At the World Championships in Daegu last year he shot his bolt too soon, getting caught and passed by the Ethiopian Ibrahim Jeilan in the home straight.
This time the Somali-born Londoner had more than enough in hand. He saved a decisive shift up in gear for a grandstand finish, pulling clear to win in 27min 30.42sec. The 80,000 crowd threatened to raise the roof and Farah's joy was compounded as he crossed the line and turned to see his American training partner, Galen Rupp, claim the silver medal, with the Ethiopian Bekele brothers – Tariku and Kenenisa – third and fourth respectively. As his daughter Rihanna rushed on to the track with a Union Flag, Farah could savour a place in the record books as the first British athlete – male or female – to win an Olympic 10,000m title.
"I can't believe it," he said. "I've never experienced anything like this. It doesn't come round often to have this on your doorstep and the amount of people supporting me, shouting out your name…it's never going to get any better. This is the best moment of my life.
"It's something I have worked so hard for – 120 miles in training, week in, week out. What you put in to it is what you get out. Seeing my daughter was really emotional. She came out running to me and I was like, 'Wow!' It was amazing. My legs were getting tired and I had to dig in. The crowd gave me that bit of boost. I can't thank people enough."
With the 5,000m to come – the distance he won at the World Championships last year – Farah could join the all-time greats who have completed the distance track double at the Olympic Games: Paavo Nurmi, Emil Zatopek, Lasse Viren and Kenenisa Bekele. Four years ago in Beijing he failed to get beyond the heats of the 5,000m but the 29-year-old is a different athlete since he moved to the west coast of the United States at the start of last year to join the elite group of distance runners coached by the former marathon great Alberto Salazar.
Back in 2008 Rutherford had to pick himself up off a hospital bed in Beijing. The day after the Olympic long jump final, in which he placed tenth, he was rushed into hospital suffering from tonsillitis and kidney and lung infections.
After years of injury and inconsistency, he has started to realise his huge potential under the direction of Dan Pfaff, the coach who guided Donovan Bailey to Olympic 100m gold for Canada in 1996.
Pfaff has remodelled his technique, basing it on that of Carl Lewis, the four-time Olympic long jump champion – with whom Pfaff worked, as an assistant to Lewis' long-time coach, Tom Tellez. "I would like to thank Dan," Rutherford said. "He is incredible.
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