Bradley Wiggins was catapulted back into the mix at the Giro d'Italia after finishing fourth on an astonishing 11th stage.
The 30-year-old had formed part of a 56-man group - along with team-mates Michael Barry, Morris Possoni and Steve Cummings - which broke free after 20 kilometres and, sensationally, none of the top five general classification contenders were with them as they built a lead of over 17 minutes.
A 27-man chase pack including pink jersey holder Alexandre Vinokourov, Cadel Evans and Vincenzo Nibali eventually formed behind, but they had only reduced that deficit back to just under 13 minutes as the stage neared its destination town of L'Aquila.
With the end in sight, the front group splintered as the opportunists battled it out for the stage win.
David Millar (Garmin), Jérôme Pineau (Quick-Step) and Linus Gerdemann (Milram) all tried their hands off the front, but Wiggins maintained a constant pace and was only narrowly beaten to the line by the triumphant Evgueni Petrov (Katusha), Dario Cataldo (Quick-Step) and Carlos Sastre (Cervélo).
That performance lifted Wiggins to 10th in the overall standings, eight minutes and 14 seconds behind new race leader Richie Porte (Saxo Bank), who ended the day in 13th.
Pink jersey holder at the start of the day, Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), dropped way down the list to 12th, with Cadel Evans and Vincenzo Nibali also falling to 13th and 14th places respectively.
Sutton buoyed by fine performance
Race coach Shane Sutton was delighted by the outcome of the stage and felt Wiggins' leap up the standings was just reward for the team's continued effort in spite of their earlier setbacks.
He said: "Everybody is over the moon with how things went today, but it wasn't an easy stage. The likes of Morris [Possoni], Steve [Cummings] and Michael [Barry] were forced to ride hard on the front again but the way Bradley [Wiggins] finished things off made it a great day all-round.
"I'm so happy with the way we've kept on fighting. We've had no end of bad luck on this tour, but fortune favours the brave and we've finally got a reward. I'm sure there will be bigger rewards to come as well if we continue to keep our morale high and the team ethic good."
Sutton revealed there is now a renewed sense of belief in the team and he is looking forward seeing how the race pans out in the days to come:
He added: "The team has got Bradley into a situation now where he's back in contention for the GC and our goal is to ensure he does not lose any time between now and the rest day at the start of next week.
"Once we get there we will reassess where Bradley's at and how the rest of the team are feeling. There's the time trial on Tuesday and that should help us sort out our battle plan then for the final week."