Switzerland's Dario Cologna overcame his bothersome ankle to take gold ahead of second-placed Marcus Hellner of Sweden and Norway's Martin Johnsrud Sundby in the men's cross-country skiathlon.
Cologna finished the 30-kilometer course in one hour, eight minutes and 15.4 seconds, pipping Hellner to the post by less than a half-second.
Moments after the race, FIS Cross Country snapped a photo of the medalists:
Sundby finished just 0.1 of a second ahead of fourth-placed Russian Maxim Vylegzhanin to take bronze for his country, as the chasing pack then fell by the wayside of the top four.
However, controversy marred the finish. Russia lodged an official protest, via R-Sport, after claiming that Vylegzhanin was deliberately impeded on the final sprint, costing him the bronze medal.
International Ski Competition Rules forbid any racer from deviating from their racing line:
Rule 343.9 of its International Ski Competition Rules states that: "In all competitions obstruction is not allowed. This behavior is defined as deliberately impeding, blocking (by not following best line), charging or pushing any competitor with any part of the body or ski equipment."
|1||Dario Cologna (Switzerland)||1:08:15.4||0.0|
|2||Marcus Hellner (Sweden)||1:08:15.8||+0.4|
|3||Martin Johnsrud Sundby (Norway)||1:08:16.8||+1.4|
|4||Maxim Vylegzhanin (Russia)||1:008:16.9||+1.5|
|5||Ilia Chernousov (Russia)||1:08:29.0||+13.6|
|6||Jean Marc Gaillard (France)||1:08:29.8||+14.4|
|7||Daniel Richardsson (Sweden)||1:08:31.7||+16.3|
|8||Johannes Duerr (Austria)||1:08:32.0||+16.6|
|9||Maurice Manificat (France)||1:08:33.6||+18.2|
|10||Lars Nelson (Sweden)||1:08:37.7||+22.3|
The 68 competitors started the cross-country ski at 2 p.m. in Sochi, in an event that sees long periods of distance skiing while overcoming varied terrain.
Swedish defending champion Hellner started the race alongside Cologna, who has missed part of the season with an ankle injury, with Britain's Callum Smith also on the starting grid.
And as the race wore on, it was clear that Cologna was the man to beat, as he went head-to-head with the Swede for the gold medal.
However, a moment of genius from the Swiss gave him breathing space from four fellow skiers at the top of the final uphill section, allowing him to pull clear of Hellner on the final straight to win just after an hour.
After the race, 27-year-old Cologna was congratulated by Dr. Boris Gojanovic, head of sports medicine at the Swiss Olympic Medical Center:
Dario Cologna!!! Unbelievable perfomance!!! #hoppschwiiz GOLD skiathlon— Dr Boris Gojanovic (@DrSportSante) February 9, 2014
Great Britain's Smith finished in 62nd place in the standings, with Australian Callum Watson just two places ahead of him.
Unfortunately for Team Korea, their competitor, Jun-Ho Hwang, was lapped during the race and finished last.
Following the race, the FIS handed Sundby a written reprimand, via Voice of Russia, for moving out of his lane but rejected any appeal by the host nation that Vylegzhanin was impeded.
Russian official Elena Valbe said, "Nothing is finished. Everything will continue. We will submit an appeal to the FIS and we have 24 hours to do that."
And with the appeal now to be sent directly to the International Ski Federation, the medal ceremony is set to remain on hold as a source in the Russian camp told Voice of Russia:
Russia has submitted a protest over rules violation that disadvantaged Vylegzhanin. The protest has put the award ceremony on halt as everyone is waiting for the outcome of the race to be confirmed.
It remains unknown when an outcome will be reached in this appeal; however, there is no doubt the FIS will be looking to resolve the matter soon to divert any further attention away from other events. The result, as it stands, leaves Norway at the top of the medals table.
Given that both of the last two home nations of the Winter Olympics (United States and Canada) finished within the top three in the medals table in their respective hosting years, the pressure is on Russia to step up and start earning their spurs.
Plus, Russia have only amassed 28 medals across those last two Games, so they will be looking to pick up as many as they can to improve their own credibility and reputation, even if that means appealing results.
As for Norway, who picked up 23 medals in Vancouver and 25 in Salt Lake City, finishing in the top three is purely second nature. There is no doubt the country will still pick up plenty of medals, regardless of whether Sundby is stripped of his.