Paula Radcliffe finally realised her dream of winning a global title when she took gold in the women's marathon at the World Championships in Helsinki.
The world-record holder hit the front early and broke free from her rivals in the last third of the race to win in two hours, 20 minutes and 57 seconds.
Radcliffe's time was a championship record, 64 seconds faster than Kenya's defending champion Catherine Ndereba.
Romania's Constantina Dita battled bravely to take bronze in 2:23:19.
Radcliffe's time was more than five minutes slower than the global record of 2:15.25 she set in London in 2003.
But she was delighted to answer her critics following her nightmare at the Athens Olympics last summer, when she failed to finish both the marathon and 10,000m.
She was also attacked for attempting a world double in Helsinki and running last Saturday's 10,000m in which she came a disappointing ninth.
"It does feel brilliant," the 31-year-old told BBC Sport. "It's just a relief.
"It's really for me - anyone can think what they want but it's really for me because I knew what I was capable of doing.
"I knew I was in great shape and I was disappointed with the 10,000m, but I was focused on this.
RADCLIFFE'S NEAR MISSES
1995: 5th in 5,000m final at Gothenburg World Championships
1996: 5th in 5,000m final at Atlanta Olympics
1997: 4th in 5,000m final at Athens World Championships
1999: 10,000m silver at Seville World Championships
2000: 4th in 10,000m at the Sydney Olympics
2001: 4th in 10,000m at Edmonton World Championships
2003: Misses Paris World Championships with injury and illness
2004: Pulls out of marathon and 10,000m at Olympics
"It was my plan to keep a decent pace and just do some surges. Dita helped me out because she did some surges.
"The last lap was hard as I was getting conflicting information but I just kept my head down and kept going."
Radcliffe took up the lead from the start but she was closely tracked by Japan's Yumiko Hara and Ethiopian Asha Gigi.
The Briton led through the early stages but a chasing pack which included Ndereba, her Kenya team-mate Tegla Loroupe, Ethiopia's Derartu Tulu and Dita stayed in contact, some 10m back.
Radcliffe stepped up the pace around the six mile mark but around nine miles Dita moved up on to her shoulder as first Hara, then Gigi, fell away.
The Romanian - second to Radcliffe in the London Marathon in April - slipped back to fourth as Radcliffe began to pull away around the halfway stage, which she passed in 1:10.03.
But she returned to shadow Radcliffe and as the Briton went though the 15-mile mark in 1:22.48, Dita was just one second back.
Defending champion Ndereba also continued to chase hard but an injection of pace saw the Bedford athlete get clear of her rivals by the 18.5-mile mark.
Ndereba pushed hard in the final stages and overhauled Dita, but she was unable to threaten Radcliffe who was cheered to the line by a vociferous British contingent in a near-empty Olympic stadium.
Radcliffe's husband and coach Gary Lough and her watching family, who suffered with her in Athens, savoured her title triumph.
"He's just happy. Everybody is just relieved," she added. "It's a victory for all of us.
"It was really emotional on the lap of honour. Halfway round it suddenly hit me."
Mara Yamauchi was the second Briton home in a new personal best of 2:31.26 to finish in 18th while team-mate Hayley Haining crossed the line in 25th, also with a lifetime best of 2:34.41.
Britain's other representative in the event, Debbie Mason, did not finish - but GB stilltook bronze in the team event.
Japan's Olympic champion Mizuki Noguchi opted not to compete in Helsinki.