Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield missed out on a medal in the synchronised 10m platform as they agonisingly finished fourth in Monday's final at the Aquatics Centre.
The duo had led the competition at the halfway mark but despite being roared on by a vocal home support that included Prime Minister David Cameron, they faded thereafter.
A pair of errors, most notably on their reverse three-and-a-half somersaults dive which dropped them out of the podium places, cost them dear as teenage Chinese pairing Cao Yuan and Zhang Yanquan claimed victory.
Mexico's German Sanchez and Ivan Garcia Navarro took silver ahead of Nick McCrory and David Boudia of the United States who, with an 8.82 points gap over Daley and Waterfield, were comfortably clear in bronze.
The British pair had initially looked on course to snatch the first home gold medal of these Olympics when they led the Chinese after three dives.
After a near-perfect compulsory set of dives Daley attracted a perfect 10, with Waterfield not far behind, for their back three-and-a-half somersaults to leave them 2.4 points clear at the top.
Inevitably the response of the Chinese, still unbeaten in international competition during their young careers, was to post 10s on their next dive and when both Daley and Waterfield then missed their entries they had suddenly slipped to fourth.
It drew an audible groan inside the Aquatics Centre and while they produced a solid forward four-and-a-half somersaults - their hardest dive - next up they had left themselves with too much work to do.
"The last two dives were brilliant but it's just not enough on the day it just wasn't meant to be," Daley told the BBC.
"It started off really well. We got a PB in the first two. The third dive was really good.
"It was just our fourth dive. If you miss one dive like that and you're gone. It is the way sport goes
"It's annoying but what can you do."
The result means Daley will now have to wait until the individual platform on the penultimate day of the Games to claim an Olympic medal - the only honour to have eluded him so far in his career.
The 18-year-old will leave the Olympic Village and return to a training base in Southend for six days in preparation for his anticipated clash with China's world champion Bo Qiu.
Daley memorably beat Bo to win the world platform title as a 15-year-old in Rome, but the Chinese has proved unbeatable since.
Where Bo has been unconquerable, Daley and Waterfield had targeted the teenage pairing of Cao, 17, and Zhang, 18, today in their first major competition.
But the teenage duo proved nerveless as they weathered the early storm, and crowd support, from the Britons before keeping China on course for a clean sweep of all eight gold medals in the diving pool.
Both divers refused to lay any blame afterwards, however, four-time Olympian Waterfield admitted he had apologised to his team-mate after he drew low marks for their failed dive.
"On the fourth dive, I had a great start, I was spinning really well and I just kicked my feet a little bit too high, which means I was over-rotated," he said.
"Once you've kicked and over-rotated, you can't then stop it.
"If I'd have kicked shorter and under-rotated, I could've then tried to fix it.
"But when you've over-rotated, you can't fix it and, unfortunately, that left us with too much to do in the last two rounds.
"We gave it a good go - our last two rounds were really good - but just not enough."
Daley admitted it had been disappointing to miss out on a podium place after their stellar start.
"We were on the highest scores that we've ever got so far after the third dive," he said.
"So we were doing really well and the crowd out there were just fantastic. Like Pete said, if you miss a dive in this kind of field then you're out.
"So we did pretty well to actually try to maintain fourth place and being so close to a medal, it's tough and it's one of those things that you've always dreamed of - winning an Olympic medal.
"So it is tough to see other people going and standing on the podium where you wanted to be but that's sport for you and that's going to give us more motivation and more drive towards the individual event."