Mo Farah became the first British track and field athlete to win three Olympic gold medals by retaining his 10,000 metres title, but Great Britain could not celebrate a repeat of ‘Super Saturday’ as Jessica Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford surrendered their crowns.
Farah continued his unprecedented spell of long-distance domination by landing his eighth straight global crown, but he did it the hard way after falling to the track following a trip from training partner Galen Rupp.
He recovered to respond to the challenge laid down by Kenya’s Paul Tanui, bursting past him down the home straight and crossing the line in 27 minutes 5.17 seconds.
Victory saw him eclipse the Olympic achievements of the likes of athletics double champions Sebastian Coe, Daley Thompson and Kelly Holmes.
But Ennis-Hill fell agonisingly short in her bid to become the first British woman to retain an Olympic title in athletics as she settled for silver, finishing 35 points behind brilliant young Belgian Nafissatou Thiam.
And Rutherford’s run of four straight major championship victories came to an end as a best leap of 8.29m earned him bronze in a thrilling long jump competition.
The trio all won gold in the space of 45 glorious minutes at London 2012, giving British athletics its finest hour. It remains a one-off, for atmosphere and achievement, but three medals in one session was still no mean achievement.
One man, though, remains a cut above.
Farah headed to Brazil on the back of running his fastest 5,000 metres since before the last Olympics and the quickest in the world this year at the London Anniversary Games. It was some parting statement.
“I’m in decent shape”, he had said. He was not lying.
He said he was prepared for an army of Kenyans to try and crush his challenge in Rio. But then they have tried for four years to find his number. And still they cannot succeed.
Farah was content to sit at the back of the field, with the pace slow in the early stages before taking closer order.
Disaster nearly struck when he tumbled to the floor after tangling with Rupp, but he got up, gave his training partner the thumbs up and got right back into the mix.
With 300 metres to go Tanui pressed the accelerator in a bid to neutralise the Briton’s renowned finishing speed, but Farah was not done and powered past the Kenyan before holding on to win by 0.47secs.
He has spoken about the hardship of spending so many months of the year away from his young family pounding out the miles in training. It is victories like these that make that sacrifice worthwhile.
He broke down in tears as he was interviewed by broadcasters after the race. This one mattered.
The father of four said: “When I went down it did take a lot out of me, (but) I managed to get up quickly. I knew how hard I’ve worked and I wasn’t going to let that go.
“It was hard, mentally. When you go down you’re really emotional.
“It was hard to pick myself up, but I believed in myself and the work I went through. When I crossed the line I got really emotional. I know what goes in and how hard I had to work for it, in one moment it’s gone.
“But I had to believe in myself, I wanted to do it for my kids.”
Ennis-Hill’s scored of 6,775 points was her best since London 2012, but she could not live with Thiam, who produced five personal bests from her seven events.
The Sheffield athlete went into the final event, the 800m, needing to run 9.47 seconds quicker than Thiam to make up a deficit of 142 points.
She produced a hugely gutsy display of front-running to give herself the best possible chance and came home in 2:09.07, but Thiam’s time of 2:16.54 was enough.
Silver, though, was still some achievement two years after the birth of her son Reggie.
Elsewhere, husband and wife Chris and Gabby Adcock - from Leeds - were knocked out of the badminton mixed doubles after suffering defeat against Polish pair Robert Mateusiak and Nadiezda Zieba.
The British duo made a strong start, winning the first game 21-18, but were then edged out in game two 27-25.
And they never got going in the decider as the Polish combination closed the match out 21-9.
The top two pairs in each of the four groups progress to the quarter-finals, but the British challengers finished third in Group B.
But there was better fortune for British badminton men’s doubles pair Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge.
They saw off Poland’s Adam Cwalina and Przemyslaw Wacha in straight games - 21-18 21-16 - to book a quarter-final place.
It was the British combination’s second win in three pool games, which proved enough for a last-eight spot.
Michael Phelps won the 23rd gold medal of his Olympic career in his final race as the United States beat Great Britain into silver in the men’s 4x100 metres medley relay.
Chris Walker-Hebborn, Adam Peaty, James Guy and Duncan Scott finished in three minutes 29.24 seconds as Phelps’ USA squad won in 3mins 27.95secs - a new Olympic record.
It was Britain’s sixth medal in the Olympic swimming pool this week while Phelps picked up the 28th of his illustrious career.
Britain had won five medals entering the final evening of competition at the Olympics Aquatics Centre - 100m breaststroke gold for Peaty, plus two silvers for Jazz Carlin, silver in the 4x200m freestyle relay and 200m individual medley silver for Siobhan O’Connor.
As hosts, Britain were widely criticised for claiming just three medals, none of them gold, at London 2012, but they have exceeded their three-to-five-medal target set by funding partners UK Sport, with a best haul since the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.