Scientists hunting the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider have revealed the first tantalising glimpses of the mysterious particle.
At a specially-arranged seminar at the Cern laboratory in Geneva, researchers presented clues in their data which suggest experts may have pinned down the "God particle" at last.
Scientists remained cautious about their findings and insisted they did not represent an official discovery, but admitted the results were "intriguing".
The two teams searching for the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider said they had found hints which point towards a Higgs boson with a mass between 124 and 126 gigaelectronvolts (GeV).
A mass of 125 GeV is equivalent to about 130 times the weight of a proton found in the nucleus of an atom.
The team working on the ATLAS detector said there was only a one per cent likelihood their results occurred by chance rather than reflecting a real effect, while the CMS team quoted a figure of about five per cent.
But this does not equate directly to a 95 per cent or higher chance that they reflect the Higgs boson, experts explained.
Oliver Buchmueller, a senior physicist on the CMS team, said: "We see a small bump around the same mass as the Atlas team and that is intriguing. It means we have two experiments seeing the same thing and that is exactly how we would expect a Higgs signal to build up."
Rolf-Dieter Heuer, director-general of Cern, added: "Keep in mind these are preliminary results and we are talking about small numbers. The window for the Higgs mass getts smaller and smaller however it is still alive.
"These are intriguing hints but please be cautious - we have not found it or excluded it yet."
Ever since the seminar was announced two weeks ago scientists had been feverishly speculating what the LHC might have found.
Excitement about the findings was such that the seminar room reached capacity half an hour early, with many senior researchers forced to gather around television screens in an annexe outside.
While neither of the two teams searching for the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider produced conclusive proof of its existence, there are hopes the findings could be confirmed next year.
Finding the elusive subatomic particle would set in stone a theory proposed by British physicist Peter Higgs in 1946, but which until now has been the subject of debate.
It would also provide the final piece of proof required by the Standard Theory, the most widely accepted explanation of how every element in the universe gets its mass.
Prof Higgs suggested that an invisible field lying across the entire cosmos interacts with the tiny particles that make up atoms to give them weight and prevent them from zipping around space at the speed of light.
The Higgs boson is the signature evidence of the theory - an unstable particle created moments after the big bang before decaying into smaller particles which form the building blocks of the universe.
To find it, researchers attempted to create a version of the big bang by firing beams of protons into one another through the LHC, a 17-mile ring based deep underneath the Swiss-French border.
Although Higgs boson particles would decay moments after being created as the beams collide, spikes in the researchers' data suggest that they did temporarily exist.
Telegraph Media Group Limited