World champion Luo Xuejuan brought China their first swimming title of the Athens Olympics with a brave victory in the 100 metres breaststroke on Monday.
Luo, swimming in the outside lane one as second-slowest qualifier, turned just first ahead of American Tara Kirk at the halfway mark and forged clear on the second length.
Australians Brooke Hanson and Leisel Jones gave chase but Luo, who appeared to be tying up in the race to the wall, managed to keep them at bay and won in one minute 06.64 seconds, breaking the Olympic record set by Jones in Sunday's semi-finals.
"Lane one is supposed to be the slowest lane but for me it's lucky," said Luo. "I was confident coming into the final even though my rivals were swimming faster."
"I am just so happy to win the gold medal. I swam for me and did not worry about the others."
Hanson took the silver in 1:07.15 and world record holder Jones, silver medallist at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, had to settle for the bronze, just 0.01 seconds behind.
American Amanda Beard, double breaststroke gold medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Games, finished outside the medals in fourth place in 1:07.44
For Jones it was an eerie reminder of her fate at last year's world championships in Barcelona, where she set a world record in the semi-finals only to be relegated to bronze in the final. This time it was an Olympic record in the semi and another bronze in the final.
(additional reporting by Alastair Himmer)