For so much of the race he looked dead and buried. For so much of the past six years, his career looked six feet under. Yet back from the brink came Paul Robinson.
The men's 1,500m final provided a thrilling climax to the first weekend of the Irish Life Health Track and Field Championships in Santry. Two middle-distance titans, replete with both astonishing class and courage, going to war, neither willing to concede.
In the end, there could be no champion more deserving than Robinson.
Having had to bridge a 30-metre deficit to Sean Tobin midway through, Robinson set off from the chasing pack and reeled in the Clonmel athlete on the final lap. He kicked for home off the last bend and fought for all he was worth up the straight, but Tobin fought back, unwilling to lie down.
The two battled to the line together, but it was Robinson who crossed in front. By an inch.
After spending most of his 20s questioning his career, chronic problems in his feet tempering his terrific talent, this comeback defied astronomical odds.
"To be back and win a gold medal with the standard of race it was, I'm thrilled," he said. "The Olympics is ultimately where you want to go, but the national championships is the start of all that."
Robinson clocked 3:43.90 to win by two hundredths of a second, with Andrew Coscoran third in 3:48.40.
Back on top. Beaming with delight.
"I could blabber on about all the trials and tribulations I've been through," said Robinson. "Since Zurich (in 2014) I've had three or four career-threatening injuries, but thankfully I had enough (to win). Something deep down just said to keep trying."
Young star Darragh McElhinney came of age with a superb win in the men's 5,000m ahead of race favourite John Travers, the 19-year-old Glengariff youngster hitting the line in 13:56.00.
"The race of my life," he said. "I've learned from my mistakes in the last few championships in not trusting my kick. The last 100 metres were the longest of my life."
Phil Healy once again reigned supreme in the women's 100m, taking victory in 11.71 from Sarah Lavin (11.83) and Joan Healy (11.85).
Stephen Gaffney claimed his first national senior title in the men's race with 10.63 ahead of Marcus Lawler (10.79) and Dean Adams (10.81).
"It's been coming a long time and I've been working very hard for years," he said. "I really wanted it."
Amy O'Donoghue kicked to glory in the women's 1,500m.
Sophie Becker of Raheny won the women's 400m in 54.06 to take her first title after a couple of near-misses.
"That last 100 was serious hell," said Becker. "I was telling myself to dig in. It worked."
Christopher O'Donnell won his third men's 400m title in 47.12 ahead of Andrew Mellon (47.35).
"It was a rubbish time but I couldn't care less," he said.
Nessa Millet of St Abban's was a classy winner of the women's 400m hurdles in 59.52, while Matthew Behan won a thrilling men's race in 52.47.
David Cussen of Old Abbey set a PB of 2.17m to take the men's high jump. Finn Valley's Sommer Lecky took the women's title with 1.79m.
Kate O'Connor won gold in the women's javelin, the European U-20 heptathlon medallist throwing a best of 49.24m.
Clonliffe's Stephen Rice was a class apart in the men's javelin, winning his fourth national title with 72.73m.