By Matt Majendie
BBC Sport at the Millennium Stadium
When referee Chris White blew the final whistle, the Red Dragon nation breathed a communal sigh of relief amid a chorus of cheers that would keep Cardiff awake into the early hours.
Wales had deservedly ended their 27-year wait for Grand Slam
success, although by their own admission not with the sort of slick, classy
performance that has typified their Six Nations campaign.
A niggling Ireland made them work for the victory but, despite the visitors' late pressure, the Welsh capital gave the impression of a place ready to make history from the outset on Saturday.
The Welsh have learned not to count their chickens after missed opportunities in 1988 and 1994.
But from the moment the build-up started to the Six Nations decider, Cardiff was awash with Slam believers.
A carnival-style atmosphere swamped the capital long before lunch - a
billboard poster from the national side's main sponsors Brains going even
further and hailing Wales as the 2007 world champions.
After their latest achievement in one of the most open Six Nations in recent
memory, few would disagree they have the brains and brawn to take on the
Coach Mike Ruddock and his players have rarely showed nerves in this
tournament, even as the team coach was swamped through the streets of Cardiff 90 minutes
A handful of players waved at the gathered throngs, but few faces on board
hinted at the magnitude of the occasion for a country starved of rugby
success since their 1978 glory.
Among the more bizarre sights at City Hall, where a big screen was erected for those without tickets, were six Gavin Henson look-alikes, equipped with Welsh kit, silver boots and all the fake tan and hair gel that Cardiff's pharmacies could muster.
With Welsh entertainer Max Boyce cranking up the pre-match singing inside the Millennium Stadium, the sense of fevered anticipation swelled further.
Catherine Jenkins and Charlotte Church led the Welsh anthem
A few doubts did creep into the Welsh consciousness, however, once play
A rare show of nerves from the players first saw Ronan O'Gara kick Ireland
ahead and then the previously unflappable Stephen Jones miss a penalty in the
With the crowd momentarily becalmed, murmurs of "here we go again" crept in
from the ocean of nail-biting Red Dragon followers.
Those doubts subsided though with a moment of individual brilliance which
has so often typified Wales this season.
But rather than the whirling dervishes in the backs delivering the goods, it was the unlikely figure of prop Gethin Jenkins who put them ahead by touching down his own charge-down of Ronan O'Gara's failed clearance.
A drop-goal and monster penalty from Henson, whose girlfriend Charlotte
Church belted out the national anthem beforehand, settled things still
Martyn Williams and Kevin Morgan show their relief at victory
With still an hour to go, the game was by no means over, but from there an
almost tangible buzz of belief started to grow in the stands.
Holding a handsome first-half lead, Kevin Morgan effectively sealed it with
his second-half try despite Ireland's late fightback.
In some twitchy dying moments, the 80,000-strong crowd implored the referee
to blow the final whistle.
When he duly obliged, they erupted.
Injured captain Gareth Thomas hailed it as the "most colourful, loud and
magical crowd" he had ever experienced.
Thomas hinted he would be reluctant to end the celebrations and head back to work in France, where he plays his club rugby, on Monday.
The entire Welsh population will no doubt be feeling the same way.