Roger Federer became the greatest player in Grand Slam history as he beat Andy Roddick in five dramatic sets for a sixth Wimbledon and 15th major title.
The Swiss won 5-7 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 16-14 to surpass Pete Sampras's 14 Grand Slam wins and regain the title he lost to Rafael Nadal last year.
And Sampras was back at Wimbledon for the first time since 2002 to watch from the Royal Box as Federer made history.
Federer, 27, will now return to the top of the world rankings ahead of Nadal.
But he had to dig deep against an in-form Roddick, who had four points for a two-set lead and then battled back to force an epic fifth set as the match became the longest men's singles final ever in terms of games played.
Federer lost 9-7 in the fifth to Nadal 12 months ago, but this year's final set alone lasted 95 minutes and with 30 games was considerably longer than the previous Grand Slam record of 11-9 in the fifth set at the 1927 French Open.
It's not one of those goals you set as a little boy but it's been quite a career and quite a month
"Andy played unbelievable," Federer told BBC Sport, adding: "It feels great. It was a crazy match with an unbelievable end and my head's still spinning, but it's an unbelievable moment in my career."
Federer, who claimed a first French Open title last month, has now won Wimbledon six times, the US Open five times, the Australian Open three times and Roland Garros once.
Sampras was the last man to set a new mark in Grand Slams when he beat Pat Rafter in an emotional final at Wimbledon in 2000, and the American chose to return to the All England Club to witness Federer's achievement.
GRAND SLAM TITLES
15 - Roger Federer
14 - Pete Sampras
12 - Roy Emerson
11 - Rod Laver
11 - Bjorn Borg
10 - Bill Tilden
8 - Ken Rosewall
8 - Ivan Lendl
8 - Andre Agassi
8 - Jimmy Connors
8 - Fred Perry
The 37-year-old arrived to applause during the changeover after the third game and, with his wife, took his seat alongside Manuel Santana, Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg and Ilie Nastase.
With so many tennis greats on hand, Roddick appeared to be very much the support act as Federer attempted to make history, but the American has been a rejuvenated force this year and played one of his best ever matches in beating British hope Andy Murray in the semi-finals.
He went into the final having won just two of his previous 18 matches against Federer, but with the confidence of having arguably the world's best serve and a new variety to his game brought out by coach Larry Stefanki.
Both men started strongly on serve but it was the Swiss who put the pressure on first, forcing four break points in a tense game at 5-5.
Federer hails 'unbelievable' moment
Federer was twice denied by Hawkeye, while Roddick saved two break points with trademark heavy serves, and the five-time champion was quickly made to regret the missed chances.
Moments later he was under pressure as he leaked a forehand into the tramlines to give Roddick a set point from seemingly nowhere, and when the Swiss made the same mistake in the following rally the American's supporters were on their feet applauding as their man took a shock lead.
The second set followed the same pattern, with neither player able to fashion a break point and Roddick now making 80% of his first serves.
It came down to a tie-break and, knowing his title hopes were under serious threat, Federer made a nervous forehand error to hand over the mini-break before the Roddick serve took over, sweeping the American to 6-2 and four set points.
An imperious Federer backhand and two service winners cut the deficit before Roddick had a chance on his own serve, but he put a high backhand volley well wide.
I just want to say congratulations to Roger, he deserves everything he gets
Federer fired a cross-court backhand pass to win a fifth straight point and earn a set point for himself, and Roddick pushed a backhand well over the baseline to bring Federer level at one-set all.
It was a body blow for the American and he headed straight to the locker room on the changeover before marching to the wrong end on his return to Centre Court.
Roddick's head cleared sufficiently for him to get a foothold in the third set and he saved a break point in game five with a serve.
The 26-year-old could win only two points on the Federer serve throughout the set but he forced another tie-break, and a chance to amend for the disaster of the second set.
A backhand approach into the net gave Federer the mini-break though and, although Roddick did well to close the gap to 6-5, the Swiss converted his third set point with a thumping forehand.
Defeated Roddick hopes for Wimbledon title
If anyone thought that the smooth coronation of Federer was now back on track, Roddick had other ideas, playing a magnificent volley at 2-1 to earn two break points and taking the second with a backhand pass that Federer could not handle.
Roddick served out valiantly from 0-30 in game nine, thrilling the Centre Court crowd who were about to enjoy a fifth set that few had expected to see.
Federer had the first chance at a break in the decider but again Roddick served his way out of trouble, and the Swiss had still not broken his opponent after nearly three hours.
Both men appeared to be getting stronger and stronger and they were well and truly in the groove on serve, with Federer ahead in the ace count as the fifth set rolled on.
Federer is the greatest ever - Sampras
Roddick made his move at 8-8, firing a spectacular backhand winner down the line for 15-40, but five-time champion Federer responded magnificently with a service winner and a nerveless drive-volley.
The set became the longest in a men's singles final when Federer fired three aces in a row to move ahead 13-12, and Roddick began to look the more tired - but he refused to yield until the 30th game of the set.
The American looped a forehand long at deuce, and when he did the same on championship point Federer had his first service break of the day - and a historic victory after four hours and 17 minutes that takes him to the top of the Grand Slam list.
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