Alberto Contador all but crowned victory in the Vuelta a Espana as the Tinkoff-Saxo rider pulled away from Chris Froome on the final climb of the Tour to claim his second stage win.
With only Sunday's time trial in Santiago de Compostela to come, the Spaniard has a lead of one minute 37 seconds over Team Sky's Froome, who surely knew as he watched his rival dance clear that he would have to settle for second.
The pair arrived here three weeks ago both questioning their own form after recovering from injuries suffered in the Tour de France, but the race came down to them alone - and so did the final stage - a 185.7km run from Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil with four categorised climbs.
They approached the last of them - a punishing rise to Puerto de Ancares with gradients up to 18 per cent - along with Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez, third and fourth in the general classifications respectively with the battle for podium places very much on.
Katusha's Rodriguez attacked first, nine kilometres from the summit, forcing a response from Movsitar rider Valverde.
Froome continued to pace himself with Contador stuck to his wheel and gradually they reeled the others back in.
Valverde was dropped with 6.5km to go and they soon caught Rodriguez.
Once he was left 4.3km from the top, it was a straight fight to the summit.
While Contador's recovery from the broken tibia suffered in France has been remarkable, allowing him to take control of this race in the second week, Froome - victim of a broken bone in his wrist in France - has been the man in form over the past few days and it was all to play for between the two.
Contador hung on Froome's wheel until the road kicked up one final time 2km from the top.
Froome tried to push clear but Contador waited before bursting past, and from that moment on all that might have stopped him were some over-excited fans jostling one another on the road as the security services struggled to control them.
Froome eventually came home 15 seconds behind Contador and, when he found the Spaniard giving television interviews at the summit, there was a brief handshake between the two.
Valverde rolled home 56 seconds back on Contador, crucially 20 seconds ahead of Rodriguez which should lock up the final podium place.
Ireland's Dan Martin slipped to seventh place on general classification after finishing 11th on today's stage while Philip Deignan is 39th overall and was 45th on today's stage.