French raider Dunaden just pipped British runner Red Cadeaux in a thrilling finish to the Emirates Melbourne Cup at Flemington Park.
The Mikel Delzangles-trained runner was racing neck and neck with Ed Dunlop's Red Cadeaux and the pair flashed past the post together to force a photo.
However, Christophe Lemaire just edged in front aboard Dunaden at the line to deny Michael Rodd aboard Red Cadeaux.
The nose verdict was the shortest winning distance in 151 runnings of the race and Ed Dunlop was understandably disappointed to lose out by such a narrow margin.
He said: "I thought beforehand that he wouldn't like the ground but that was a fantastic run.
"I was watching it with Luca Cumani and he thought I'd got it on the nod but the best I thought we'd got would have been a dead heat.
"He got a lovely run into the straight and the jockey has given him a great ride. We don't like to be second but I've come all the way down here for the first so you have to be delighted.
"If he's OK, we'll be back next year."
Both Red Cadeaux and Dunaden were settled near the rear of the field early on as Illo set a steady pace up front before turning up the gallop a notch.
There were plenty in with a chance as the field straightened for home with Cumani's Manighar kicking for home early before Anthony Freedman's German import Lucas Cranach went in pursuit.
It was that horse who was in front around a furlong and a half out, but Red Cadeaux was keeping on strongly while Lemaire was challenging between horses on Dunaden.
Red Cadeaux held a narrow advantage on Dunaden just strides from the post but Lemaire conjured a last rally from his mount to gain the day.
Lucas Cranach claimed third from last year's winner Americain, who flew down the outside to finish fourth.
Lemaire only stepped in for the ride at the last minute after Craig Williams was ruled out of the race through suspension.
Williams rode Dunaden to win the Geelong Cup in his prep race earlier this month and Delzangles paid tribute to his efforts.
He said: "I would like to have a thought for Craig Williams who should have been on the horse today. He did a great job in preparation for the horse, he has been a big help for us and a gentleman.
"I want to thank all the people we have met here who have helped us."
Lemaire said: "They went very slowly in the beginning but on the back straight we started to go a bit faster and I was always confident. The horse in front of me was going really well and it brought me to the front very easily.
"I was a bit anxious after the line. A rider on a pony told me they thought I had won and then when I turned the corner back towards the stands, everyone was applauding me.
"Michael Rodd and I congratulated each other and wished each other luck in the photo finish.
"Two years ago I had a fall before Arc weekend and I missed winning four Group One races, all because of my collarbone, so I know what it is like to watch in your armchair.
"Craig must be devastated. I hope he recovers quickly. To win the Melbourne Cup in your country is a dream and I hope he will win many more races.
"Emotionally I think this is the second best moment in my career. The first was winning the Prix de Diane, because all my family were there and I was on a big favourite called Divine Proportions.
"Of course I have heard of the Melbourne Cup before, but the atmosphere and the passion here, it is really something special."
Dunaden is owned by Sheikh Fahad Al Thani under his Pearl Bloodstock banner and he is already thinking of further top-level success in 2012.
"This is one of the biggest races in the world and we want to compete at the top level, but my operation is all about the horse and finding which race is the best for him," he explained.
"We don't target a race, but the horse tells us that. He had the right profile for the race and he showed that today.
"I said Melbourne Cup this year and Gold Cup next year, but why not do both (next year)?
"The Melbourne Cup is a handicap and we wanted to preserve his handicap mark. Even so, I think he would have gone close in the Gold Cup.
"You must really appreciate getting these chances in life, I hope the luck continues. I'm very happy."
Rodd admitted the slim margin of victory on the runner-up was hard to swallow.
"I would have preferred to have been beaten by half a length than like that, but he's run really well," he said.
"We saved all the ground and he felt fantastic. Coming to the 350 (metre-mark) I let him go, and it took a good horse to beat him."