African Story gave Saeed bin Suroor and Godolphin their sixth success in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan.
Fifth last year and only seen twice this season, he was ridden with great confidence by Silvestre de Sousa and wore down the front-running Mukhadram halfway down the straight.
The 12-1 chance had stretched well clear by the line, while the Investec Derby winner Ruler Of The World, uneasy in the betting and with a poor draw, was struggling from some way out under Joseph O'Brien.
De Sousa said: "He's proved how good he is.
"I had a bit of bad luck in the earlier races but he has saved the night."
There was a brief scare beforehand when Sanshaawes reared up in the stalls and had to be taken out to pass a veterinary inspection, but Paul Hanagan got Mukhadram quickly in position from a poor draw in gate 13.
He had every chance to present victory to William Haggas and Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, who had been critical of the Tapeta surface, and bravely held on to second.
Completing a great result for Godolphin, the Charlie Appleby-trained Cat O'Mountain stayed on for third, with most of the big names failing to show.
De Sousa said: "He was very unlucky here last time when he banged his head in the stalls, but he has proved he's the boy."