Austrian star Benjamin Raich put in a storming second leg to win the men's giant slalom in Sestriere.
Raich has now emphatically rid himself of the "choker" tag
Raich, 27, had been only fifth fastest after the first leg but a superb second run saw him push France's Joel Chenal into second place by 0.07 seconds.
Raich's team-mate Hermann Maier took the bronze medal, 0.16 secs back.
Canada's Francois Bourque had led after the first leg but a nervous second descent left him outside the medals in fourth place.
The win was Raich's first in Olympic competition and compensation for missing out on a medal in the combined. He had been leading that event when he skied out of the second slalom leg.
Raich, who dominated men's skiing in 2005 to shed his reputation for faltering on the big stage, won two bronzes at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.
"I have wanted to win an Olympic race since I was a child," said Raich, who fell to the ground in relief after watching Bourque finish.
"I am speechless, overjoyed. This makes me extremely happy. Olympic victory was my greatest goal.
"Failure in the combined and in the super-G did not affect me in any way, because I do not have to prove to anybody anymore that I know ski racing."
The 32-year-old Chenal will be delighted with his first ever Olympic medal, while Maier, who won the giant slalom in Nagano in 1998, can add bronze to the super-G silver he won on Saturday.
"Of course I am satisfied but then I missed gold twice with such narrow margins," said Maier, who had influenza coming into the Games.
Bode Miller, another big name seeking redemption after a disappointing Games, left himself too much to do on the second run and could only manage joint sixth.
In fact, the highly-touted US team endured a miserable Monday with veteran Daron Rahlves and combined champion Ted Ligety both failing to finish their first runs.
The 32-year-old Rahlves said: "It's hard to swallow, just knowing this is the last time I'm going to be racing in an event like this.
"I've been three times to the Olympics and haven't medalled. I was flying, ready to go man, but the wheels came off here. I didn't quite put it together."