Audi's Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello beat the odds to score a breathtaking victory in one of the most exciting Le Mans 24 Hours in living memory.
Kristensen eventually crossed the line to score a record-extending eighth win in the French classic, but it was not certain until the final few laps of a dramatic final hour.
The Dane, under immense pressure to protect a cushion of two minutes from Nicolas Minassian's charging Peugeot, didn't put a wheel wrong despite a late burst of rain that rendered the circuit soaking wet.
While Kristensen, who switched to intermediate tyres at the turn of the hour, steadily pushed on, Minassian charged with a risky slick-shod strategy that was aimed at taking advantage of dry sections of the 13km circuit.
It was the right one, and at times the Frenchman was eight seconds faster than his rival over a single lap. But the knife-edge nature of the conditions also saw him spin violently at the Dunlop chicane, and then miss the first chicane on the Mulsanne altogether.
In the end, events earlier in the race left the Frenchman with simply too much to do as put in a flat-out triple stint to the end of the race.
In fact in the final laps of the race, Minassian appeared to be fighting for control of the 908, after suffering from a puncture on his rear left tyre.
Kristensen's final stint, given the pressure involved, was the measure of any seen during the race.
Franck Montagny took third for Peugeot, but two podium spots will be scant consolation for the French manufacturer, which has spared no expense to win this event in front of a 260,000 strong crowd. It almost certainly means they will be back next year.
Lucas Luhr brought the No.3 Audi home fourth after a lengthy late service took it out of the battle for third.
The No.8 Peugeot, without a doubt the fastest car throughout the race, finished fifth in the hands of Alex Wurz, while Frank Biela, who spun at the first chicane in the final hour, was sixth in last year's winning car.
Benoit Treluyer gave Pescarolo the unofficial petrol class win by dint of being the most reliable car, finishing five laps ahead of Loic Duval in the last surviving Oreca Courage.
Former Formula One driver Jos Verstappen made the perfect debut at La Sarthe as the Dutch Van Merksteijn Porsche team completed a crushing victory in LMP2.
David Brabham was given the honour of crossing the line for Aston Martin in GT1 as the No.009 car took class victory for the second straight year.
Their battle with GM Corvette had been concluded long before the final hour. But the Australian, who shared his car with former Autosport Young Driver Darren Turner and Antonio Garcia, still had to finish the race in the difficult conditions just like everyone else.
Mika Salo scored an emotional first Le Mans class victory with the Risi Ferrari squad in GT2.