Ethiopia's Meseret Defar piled on the pace over the last 300m to steal the women's 5,000m Olympic crown in Athens.
Defar had been locked in battle with Kenya's Isabella Ochichi but left her behind as she sprinted for home to win in 14 minutes, 45.63 seconds.
Compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba took bronze while pre-race favourite Elvan Abeylegasse finished in 12th.
Britain's Jo Pavey dug deep, fighting back to come home fifth while Ireland's Sonia O'Sullivan trailed in last.
Pavey found herself left behind in the opening stages but clawed her way back into the race with four laps to go.
The 30-year-old, who has endured an injury-hit year, said she had been inspired by the golden success of her friend Kelly Holmes in the 800m.
"I'm thrilled for Kelly," she said. "Her win gave me a massive boost before my race.
"It's disappointing not to get a medal because that's what I came here for, but I never thought I'd make it.
"I'm going to attempt the 1500m if my legs hold on."
O'Sullivan, who took the silver medal at the Sydney Olympics, found herself lapped by the leading pair.
The 34-year-old was certainly making her Olympic farewell but has yet to decide on her competitive future.
China's Sun Yingjie took up the lead after the first lap before Abeylegasse took over with eight laps left.
But the world record holder's grip on the race did not last as Ochichi moved to the front five laps later as the Turkish athlete fell away.
The 24-year-old Kenyan then had to fight it out with Defar and surrendered the title as the world indoor 3,000m champion stretched away at the last.