A capacity crowd in the Bird's Nest was stunned into silence when local hero Liu Xiang pulled out of the morning's final event, the 110m hurdles, through injury.
After a false start in the final heat, Liu pulled up short of the first hurdle with what appeared to be a recurrence of a hamstring injury and limped out of the stadium before the race was restarted.
In his absence, Britain's Allan Scott finished third in a time of 13.56 to advance to the second round, the 25-year-old Scot joining team-mate Andrew Turner who was second in an identical time behind world record holder Dayron Robles of Cuba in an earlier heat.
"I am happy with that," said Turner, 27.
"I just wanted to qualify. I tried to keep the race clean and keep everything in control and that is what I did.
"The time was nothing great but it was about qualification before I start to pick it up.
"I have raced against Robles a few times and you know he is always going to be quick but I didn't notice him in the race, I was just trying to take care of my own business and I am happy to qualify.
"It is a brilliant atmosphere and a fast track, but it's not a fast track if you hit a hurdle so I was just trying to keep it clean."
Britain's Zoe Derham failed to qualify for the final of the women's hammer after falling well short of the automatic qualifying standard with a best of 64.74m.
Liu's coach Sun Haiping said: "We arrived in the Olympic village on August 16 and took an MRI and the problem was in his tendon."
Feng Shouyong, head of the Chinese team, said: "Since Athens his main goal was to achieve gold in Beijing.
"Today's result was not perfect for all of us and especially Liu Xiang. He has been under great pressure and expectations from all of us."
Feng revealed that the injury was to "the end of the tendon on his right foot, the point where the tendon is attached to the bone."
He added: "It is very close to the heel on his take-off foot so there is a lot of pressure on that area. That caused the problem."
Wang Wei, executive vice-president of the Beijing organising committee, said Liu's withdrawal was a blow for China.
He said: "I think everyone in the country will be very disappointed.
"I don't think it was a case that he was under too much pressure - he is very courageous and he had an injury."
Britain's Allan Scott, who was in the same heat as Liu, said: "I crossed the line and I assumed he was there but I looked across and he wasn't and I was amazed.
"I never realised in the warm-up. I just assumed he was ready to go.
"When you see the crowd (the Bird's Nest was packed) you realise why he had to come out."
Former 110m hurdles world record holder Colin Jackson said: "It could have been a massive injury that wrecked his career. He is a world class athlete and you never want that to happen."