Russia's Tatyana Lebedeva set a new world record of 15.36 metres in the women's triple jump to win gold.
The world number one immediately took control of the final when she equalled Briton Ashia Hansen's 15.16m mark on the first attempt in Budapest.
She then unleashed a leap of 15.25m to claim the outright record before bettering it with her final jump.
Lebedeva will now aim for an historic long jump-triple jump double on Sunday.
London-based Yamile Aldama set an African mark of 14.90m to finish second.
Hansen, who had set the record at the European Indoors six years ago, opted not to defend her world indoor crown.
But not everyone in Lebedeva's camp hailed her achievement. "My coach was not happy. He said my rhythm was wrong and my run-up was poor," she said.
Kelly Holmes' bid for 1500m gold ended in disappointment when she fell midway through the final.
The British medal favourite tried valiantly to make up lost ground but eventually finished in last place.
The race was won by Ethiopia's Kutre Dulecha, with Carmen Douma-Hussar second and Gulnara Samitova third.
Yelena Isinbayeva ensured it was a memorable day for the Russians - following Lebedeva's success she also entered the record books with a clearance of 4.86m in the women's pole vault to capture gold.
Isinbayeva overhauled the record set by team-mate Svetlana
Feofanova in Athens last month by one centimetre.
May leaps her way into the long jump final
American veteran Stacy Dragila, the 1997 champion, set a North American record of 4.81m, while Feofanova took bronze with 4.70m.
Natalya Nazarova sealed a golden treble for Russia when she successfully defended her 400m title, leading from start to finish to clock 50.19 seconds.
Alleyne Francique handed Grenada their first indoor medal when he took gold in the men's 400m.
Francique held off a late challenge from Davian Clarke of Jamaica to finish first in 45.88 secs.
Gary Kikaya, of the Democratic Republic of Congo, took bronze - also for his nation's first indoor worlds medal - in a time of 46.30 secs.
Savante Stringfellow confirmed his dominance this season when he clinched long jump gold, winning with a leap of 8.40m, just one centimetre off his season's best.
"It was a long day, I was nervous in my first couple of
jumps and I knew I had to try to pull a rabbit out of the
hat. And when I did, it was a bomb, a big jump," the delighted American said.
Bernard Lagat of Kenya won the 3,000m, holding off Portugal's Rui Silva and chief rival Markos Geneti of Ethiopia.
Lagat missed last year's World Championships outdoors after
testing positive for the endurance-boosting drug EPO but was
reinstated the following month after his 'B' sample
produced a negative result.
American Allen Johnson defended his 60m hurdles title despite hitting most of the barriers and only qualifying as a fastest loser.
Condon tastes disappointment in Budapest
Johnson took his third indoor title in a season's best
time and championship record of 7.36 secs - it also tied the North American record of Greg Foster.
Rising hurdles star Liu Xiang of China chased him home in an Asian record time of 7.43secs.
"This victory tells me that no matter how I feel I can
still be confident, that I can compete," Johnson said.
Stefan Holm also claimed a third world indoor gold - the Swede cleared 2.35m, an amazing 54 cm above his own height, to win the men's high jump.
Earlier, Britain's Jo Fenn battled brilliantly over the final 30m to make Sunday's 800m final for a second successive time, finishing third in her semi-final in two minutes 0.79secs.
British-born Italian long-jumper Fiona May booked her final berth with a leap of 6.64m.
However, there was disappointment for British duo Catherine Murphy and Helen Karagounis who both missed out on the final of the women's 400m.
Fellow Briton Allyn Condon also failed to make it to the last stage in the 200m, Joseph Batangdon of Cameroon and Poland's Marcin Urbas denying him the chance in the final straight.
Team GB's Tim Abeyie was never in contention in his qualifier, finishing last in
In the men's long jump Chris Tomlinson added the British indoor long jump record to
his outdoor mark, clearing a distance of 8.17m.
But the performance only gained the Teessider, who added 12cm to Barrington Williams 15-year-old former best, sixth place.
Igor Pavlov, of Russia, was the only pole vaulter to clear the
qualifying standard of 5.75m.
Defending champion Tim Lobinger of Germany was one of the vaulters who went through to Sunday's final with 5.70m.