Graeme McDowell held his nerve in the final singles match as Europe clung on to their overnight lead to beat United States 14½-13½ to regain the Ryder Cup.
Trailing 9½-6½ going into the delayed finale, the Americans fought back superbly to take the match to the wire.
Rickie Fowler won the last three holes to snatch an unlikely half with Edoardo Molinari, leaving Europe relying on McDowell to beat Hunter Mahan.
The Northern Irishman birdied the 16th before sealing victory at the 17th.
"Graeme [McDowell] was put there [at the bottom of the order] for a very good reason," said victorious Europe captain Colin Montgomerie. "He is the US Open champion and full of confidence and that birdie on 16 was quite unbelievable."
It capped an extraordinary four days at the Celtic Manor in south Wales, which was bathed in sunshine for the delayed final day after the rain that had deluged the Usk Valley on Friday and Sunday.
The US, who took the singles 7-5, prevailed in three of the four sessions overall, but Saturday's third session - which Europe won 5½-½ - proved vital in the final analysis.
Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Miguel Angel Jimenez all delivered victories on Monday for Europe, with Rory McIlroy and Edoardo Molinari contributing half-points.
But Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Jeff Overton, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson all won for the US, leaving the outcome in the hands of McDowell and Mahan.
McDowell led by three early on but slipped to 1up with three to play after driving into heavy rough left of the green and duffing his chip shot on the 15th.
But he recovered brilliantly to hole a nailbiting 15-foot putt to win the 16th, bringing a huge roar from the packed galleries.
Mahan could not respond on the 17th, leaving his chip just short of the green and conceding the hole to spark wild celebrations among the majority of the 35,000 fans present.
Montgomerie had loaded his line-up with strength at the top, but Lee Westwood, the team's talisman over the first three days, was unable to deliver the start the hosts had hoped for.
The Englishman rattled in successive birdies at four, five and six to take the lead but Stricker, one of the United States' strongmen, surpassed him with four in a row from the ninth to level the match on the 12th.
Westwood then found the water with his tee shot on 13 to fall behind, and despite salvaging a half on the next with a great bunker shot, a 20-footer from Stricker on the 15th put him two up with three to play and he sealed victory on the 17th.
Dustin Johnson, pointless after three matches, then swiftly added a second point for the US as he crushed USPGA champion Kaymer 6&4 in the fourth match.
Poulter, Europe's rabble rouser-in-chief, had confidently declared beforehand he would deliver a point, and was true to his word against Matt Kuchar, who had previously won two points out of three.
The Englishman rattled in a 35-foot putt on the third, chipped in from the fairway on the 11th to go 4up and rattled in another putt from distance on the 13th before delivering the coup de grace on the 14th, by which time he was six under par.
That was more than enough to deliver Europe's first point of the day, and his third from four matches to become his team's leading points-scorer.
Donald joined him on that tally half an hour later, holding his nerve under great pressure from Jim Furyk to win the match on the 18th.
The Englishman was 3up by the sixth and holed a series of superb putts but despite being six under par, found himself only one up with two to play.
But Furyk found the bunker with his approach shot on the last and Donald, safely on the green, had the luxury of two putts to seal victory.
That was the second match to finish on the 18th, McIlroy having secured a vital half against Stewart Cink in a match the American might easily have won.
The Northern Irish tyro made a flying start with birdies on the first two holes, but Cink won the next three before McIlroy levelled, as he did again on the 12th after Cink had regained the lead on the eighth.
McIlroy found the water on 13 to fall behind, but Cink missed a three-footer on the 15th to leave it all square again.
McIlroy suffered further let-offs at the 17th and the last, when he failed to get out of the greenside bunker with his first attempt.
Cink had a 12-footer to win the match which slipped narrowly by, leaving McIlroy with a nasty five-footer to halve the match.
"I have had three great matches with Stewart this week and a half was probably what we both deserved," he said. "I wouldn't have said this a year ago but this is the best event in golf."
After Donald had increased Europe's lead to 12-9, Jimenez extended it with his first Ryder Cup singles victory at the fourth attempt.
The veteran Spaniard chipped in from a bunker on the eighth to go ahead and rattled off four birdies in his last seven holes to beat Bubba Watson 4&3.
But rookie Overton gave the Americans hope by turning round his match with Ross Fisher, who suffered a disappointing end to his first Ryder Cup.
Birdies at the first and third gave the Englishman an ideal start but Overton levelled on the 12th and four bogeys in his last five holes saw Fisher slip to a 3&2 defeat.
Woods swiftly wrapped up his match with Francesco Molinari, despite the Italian going 2up after two holes.
The world number one, who had struggled with his game in Wales despite earning two points in the company of Stricker, holed a 20-footer on the sixth and had levelled matters by the turn.
Woods' putter was running hot and he finished eight under for his last 10 holes, including an eagle on the 12th and a monster 50ft putt on 13 before sealing a 4&3 win.
With the score 13-11, Europe were relying on Edoardo Molinari, leading his match with Fowler, and McDowell - up in the final match against Mahan - to get to the 14½ points needed for victory, with Phil Mickelson dispatching Peter Hanson 4&2 and Padraig Harrington struggling against Zach Johnson, eventually losing 3&2.
Fowler, three down with three to play, sealed a remarkable comeback with a 20-foot putt on the last to steal a half from the older Molinari.
But McDowell, who won his first major at the US Open in June, sealed a superb contest to deliver Europe's fourth victory in the last five Ryder Cups, and sixth in the last eight.