Jamaica's Usain Bolt broke the 200-meter world record to complete the first Olympic golden sprint double in 24 years, surging ahead from the start to win Wednesday's final in 19.30 seconds.
Just four days after shattering his own world 100m record and on the eve of his 22nd birthday, Bolt pulled away around the curve and stretched his victory margin, with Churandy Martina of Netherlands Antilles runner-up in 19.82.
Bolt, who had not before been pressed to run to the finish line at these Games, raced past the former world record of 19.32 set by American legend Michael Johnson at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Not since Carl Lewis in 1984 had any man claimed 100m and 200m gold in the same Olympics, but this lightning Bolt struck twice in the same place to the delight of 91,000 roaring fans at the Bird's Nest.
As Bolt danced around the track on a victory lap, the stadium loudspeakers played "Happy Birthday" to the Jamaican some 90 minutes early.
Bolt's quest to become the ninth man to achieve the 100-200 Olympic double after winning the 100 final on Saturday in an astounding 9.69 seconds, breaking his former world mark of 9.72 from May in New York.
After crossing the finish line and raising his arms in celebration, Bolt grabbed a Jamaican flag and draped it around his neck. He took off his golden shoes and began an impromptu celebration dance.
American Wallace Spearmon was third in 19.95 with 2004 Olympic champion Shawn Crawford of the United States fourth in 19.96 and fellow American Walter Dix fifth in 19.98.
Bolt started in lane five after making his trademark "Lightning Bolt" arm gesture before the start with Crawford just inside him at the gun.
Ironically, Johnson had said just hours earlier he did not think Bolt had what it took to erase his record from the books in Beijing.
"I don't think his training has been geared to that part yet," Johnson said. "But in a few years it will be and then I will be ready to kiss my record goodbye."
That smootch came earlier than he expected even as more Jamaicans showed top form.
Reigning world champion Allyson Felix of the United States and defending Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica led trios of women from each of their nation's into Thursday's 200m finals from semi-final heats.
The grudge match began when Jamaicans swept the women's 100m medals with three Americans adrift.
Campbell-Brown won her semi-final heat in 22.19 seconds with compatriot Kerron Stewart second in 22.29 and American Muna Lee third in 22.29.
Felix answered by winning her heat in 22.33 with compatriot Marshevet Hooker second in 22.50, edging Jamaican Sheron Simpson who was third in the same time.
World record-holder Dayron Robles of Cuba booked his place in Thursday's 110m hurdles final by winning his semi-final heat in 13.12 seconds to lead all eight qualifiers.
"Everything is fine," Robles said. "My preparation is going well. We have to wait and see what happens in the final."
His nearest rivals this season, Americans David Oliver and David Payne, advanced as well, with Oliver winning his heat in 13.31.
Chinese fans remained haunted by the absence of Liu Xiang, who pulled out with an injury in Monday's opening heats, and were hit again when China's Shi Dongpeng failed to advance, missing out by .02 of a second in a photo finish.
Reigning 1,500 and 5,000 world champion Bernard Lagat bounced back in the opening heats of the 5,000 after failing to reach the 1,500m finals, winning his qualifying heat for Saturday's final in 13:39.70.
"I wanted to run hard and make it to the finals. That was my main goal," Lagat said. "I wasn't going out there to win, but I thought when I was leading, 'Why not just go out and win it?'"
Olympic 1,500m champion Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia continued his bid for a distance double by finishing third in Lagat's heat, advancing in 13:40.13.
World indoor champion Tariku Bekele of Ethiopia and 2003 world champion Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya also advanced.
Defending champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy of Russia, world champion Alfred Kirwa Yego of Kenya, 2004 Olympic runner-up Mbulaeni Mulaudzi of South Africa and 2008 world leader Abubaker Kaki of Sudan were among 24 advancing to the 800m semi-finals.
Aksana Miankova of Belarus won the women's hammer throw with a best effort of 76.34m with Cuba's Yipsi Moreno settling for second for the second Olympics in a row on 75.20 and China's Zhang Wenxu third on 74.32.