Mark Cavendish claimed a sensational win on stage 18 of the Tour de France as his Team Sky colleague Bradley Wiggins edged closer to becoming the first British winner of the yellow jersey.
World champion Cavendish powered through the field in breathtaking fashion before accelerating away in the last 200 metres of the 222.5-kilometre route from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde.
Mathew Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) was a distant second, with the green jersey of Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) in third.
It was a 22nd Tour success of Cavendish's career, his second this year, and the 27-year-old from the Isle of Man equals Lance Armstrong and Andre Darrigade in fourth place in the all-time rankings of Tour stage winners.
And for Wiggins it was another stage chalked off without alarm - indeed he and Edvald Boasson Hagen both put in huge turns to lead out Cavendish in the closing stages.
Wiggins has a two minutes and five seconds advantage over team-mate Chris Froome at the top of the overall standings, with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) 2mins 41secs adrift in third.
Just two stages remain, with Saturday's 53.5km time-trial to Chartres the last for time gains to be made.
"I don't know how much I won by but I had to go early," said Cavendish after putting bike lengths between himself and the rest.
"I knew I'd be able to go long and no one would be able to pass me, but with 500 or 600 metres to go I started and ramped up. I just knew I'd get it and I felt really good today.
"I just haven't been able to show anything in this Tour with us going for the yellow jersey and there's been no sprints.
"But we spoke on the bus before the start and I stuck my hand up and said 'please give me a chance'. Bradley, Froomey and Mick committed straight in and the guys said we were going to make a sprint today.
"I'm so happy, those lads who I've been riding with these last three weeks helped me out."
The world champion had to use all his skill to negotiate his way around Luis-Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) and Nicolas Roche (Ag2R La Mondiale), who were making a last-ditch bid to avoid a field sprint.
It had been touch and go as to whether it would come down to a bunch finish after several breakaways - the main one of which had earlier featured the hard-working Boasson Hagen - attempted to stay clear.
Cavendish will have another opportunity in Sunday's final stage on the Champs-Elysees where he is unbeaten, having won in 2009, 2010 and 2011 in the three Tours he has completed.
Wiggins had already vowed to work for Cavendish in the French capital, but began to pay back his friend and team-mate's loyalty with a supreme showing in Brive.
The 32-year-old Londoner punched the air in delight behind Cavendish as the Manxman celebrated the latest win of his stellar career.
It all left Team Sky's Principal Dave Brailsford understandably delighted as he explained: "We thought it would be a sprint this morning but as the stage developed the break never really established.
"Lotto-Belisol and GreenEDGE put a man in the break so we put Edvald in there. Then the chase was on and they barely got over three minutes. It was obvious that other teams were determined to bring the break back.
"We were determined to repay Mark for his loyalty, his teamwork and his contribution to this team over the last few weeks.
"I know Bradley and the guys were very motivated this morning to try and say thanks to him. When you lead Mark Cavendish out like that the result is never in doubt.
"When you look at the Tour he has only sprinted four times. He has crashed once, and then when you look at the three other times he was beaten once and then won the other two - which in anybody's book is a fantastic return. He's demonstrated once again why he's such an amazing rider and a genuine world champion.
"The one thing I'd like the team to be known and remembered for is the unity and that teamwork.
"The guys work tirelessly for each other, they get on really well and they showed again today that they all back each other, it doesn't matter what the situation is.
"Credit to Mark for taking advantage of that today and showing why he is the best sprinter in the world."
Leading final positions after Stage 18 (Blagnac- Brive-la-Gaillarde, 222.5km): 1 Mark Cavendish (Gbr) Sky Procycling 4hrs 54mins 12secs, 2 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team at same time, 3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale at same time, 4 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team at same time, 5 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale at same time, 6 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Sharp at same time, 7 Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team at same time, 8 Sebastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale at same time, 9 Daryl Impey (Rsa) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team at same time, 10 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne at same time, 11 Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team at same time, 12 Juan Jose Haedo (Arg) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank at same time, 13 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling at same time, 14 Andreas Kloden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan at same time, 15 Koen De Kort (Ned) Argos-Shimano at 0.04secs, 16 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team at same time, 17 Julien Simon (Fra) Saur - Sojasun at same time, 18 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) Lotto Belisol Team at same time, 19 Bradley Wiggins (Gbr) Sky Procycling at same time, 20 Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team at same time
Selected others: 22 Christopher Froome (Gbr) Sky Procycling 4hrs 54mins 16secs, 140 Stephen Cummings (Gbr) BMC Racing Team at 07mins 50secs, 142 David Millar (Gbr) Garmin - Sharp at 08.54
General classification after Stage 18: 1 Bradley Wiggins (Gbr) Sky Procycling 83hrs 22mins 18secs, 2 Christopher Froome (Gbr) Sky Procycling at 02mins 05secs, 3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 02.41, 4 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team at 05.53, 5 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team at 08.30, 6 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 09.57, 7 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan at 10.11, 8 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar at 10.17, 9 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team at 11.00, 10 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat at 11.46, 11 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale at 12.54, 12 Andreas Kloden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan at 14.05, 13 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan at 14.22, 14 Chris Anker Sorensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank at 18.46, 15 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team at 22.54, 16 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan at 24.24, 17 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi at 25.32, 18 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team at 29.51, 19 Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha Team at 33.07, 20 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team at 33.50
Selected others: 95 Stephen Cummings (Gbr) BMC Racing Team at 2hrs 38mins 37mins, 104 David Millar (Gbr) Garmin - Sharp at 2.48.33, 142 Mark Cavendish (Gbr) Sky Procycling at 3.21.47