Dressed in the colours of the late Seve Ballesteros, Europe pulled off one of his trademark great escapes in what will go down as the "Miracle of Medinah".
What looked mission impossible when Europe trailed 10-4 at one point late last night suddenly became possible after they dramatically won the first five singles games and then picked up further points from Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.
That put Jose Maria Olazabal's side, almost unbelievably, 13-12 up and as the holders they needed only a tie to retain the cup. Yet they ended up winning it 14 1/2-13 1/2.
Three games were still on the course. Peter Hanson lost the first of them on the final green, but Martin Kaymer and Francesco Molinari had it in their power to retain the famous gold trophy.
And Kaymer, left out all day on Saturday, was the one to deliver the point they required to match the biggest comeback in the event's history.
He was up against Steve Stricker. Level with two to go, the American bogeyed the short 17th after hitting his chip far too strongly.
Kaymer, bunkered off the final tee, found the green and had two putts for it once Stricker missed his long birdie attempt.
He gave himself and his team-mates palpitations when he sent his first one six feet past, but 21 years on from compatriot Bernhard Langer missing from the same distance to lose at Kiawah Island Kaymer made the one back and sparked jubilant scenes.
"This is for the whole of Europe, all those 12 wonderful men, my four vice-captains and that band of caddies" Jose Maria Olazabal
Moments before Molinari had fallen one down to Tiger Woods by bogeying the 17th himself, but suddenly it did not matter. The cup was going back across the Atlantic.
They played on, however, and when Woods bogeyed he conceded Molinari's par putt - a move that gave Europe their fifth win in the last six games.
They won the 12 singles by a simply stunning 8 1/2-3 1/2 margin.
It was no surprise to see Olazabal, who of course formed with Ballesteros the greatest partnership in the event's history, crying.
"It means a lot - not just for me," he said. "This is for the whole of Europe, all those 12 wonderful men, my four vice-captains and that band of caddies.
"Seve will always be present with this team. He was a big factor for this event and last night when we had that meeting I think the boys understood that believing was the big thing.
"It's been a tough week. Until today nothing went our way - we struggled on the greens, but this morning I felt we were a little better in that regard.
"I've been under pressure hitting shots, but today tops that."
Kaymer said: "It's a feeling I've never had before. Bernhard helped me so much, just to sit me down and talk about it.
"Now I know how it feels to win the Ryder Cup."
Stunned American captain Davis Love said: "I would not have done anything differently. They played great.
"When you lose a segment (session) that badly it's going to cost you."
The four-point overnight deficit became three when Luke Donald beat Masters champion Bubba Watson 2&1 in the top game. It was a massive relief after he led by four with four to play.
Scot Paul Lawrie crushed last Sunday's $11million FedEx Cup winner Brandt Snedeker 5&3 - he was six under par with an eagle and four birdies - and Rory McIlroy then beat previously unbeaten Keegan Bradley 2&1.
That was not the world number one's biggest drama of the day, though.
As the singles began word reached everybody that McIlroy, out in the third game, was nowhere to be seen around the course.
Two minutes late and he would forfeit the opening hole, five minutes late and he faced disqualification, but to the relief of every European he was driven into the parking lot with 10 minutes to go, got his shoes on and gave a superb display.
"I was just casually strolling out of my hotel room when I got a phone call saying you have 25 minutes" - Rory McIlroy
Olazabal admitted his heart had been "racing quicker than expected" until McIlroy teed off and added: "We did not have that in mind.
"All of a sudden we realised Rory was not here and started to look for him. Finally we got hold of him and he came in."
It was reported the Northern Irishmen had seen a 12.25am tee-off time on television, but it was Eastern Time - one hour ahead of Chicago.
After his win McIlroy said: "I was just casually strolling out of my hotel room when I got a phone call saying you have 25 minutes.
"I have never been so worried driving to the course. Luckily there was a State Trooper outside who gave me the escort - if not I would not have made it on time."
McIlroy never trailed, but star man Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Garcia all did.
Poulter, whose finish to the second session of fourballs really inspired the comeback, made it four wins out of four - and 12 wins in his last 14 cup games - beat US Open champion Webb Simpson on the last after being two down early on.
They were level with two to go, but Simpson failed to get up and down from a bunker on the short 17th and could not grab the birdie he needed on the last.
Rose's second win over Phil Mickelson in his cup career came in amazing fashion. He trailed by one with two to play, but holed from 40 feet on 17 and 14 feet at the last.
Mickelson, America's record cap-holder and winner of his first three games, could only stand and admire - and graciously applauded everything Rose did at the end.
Mickelson can still consider himself to have had a good week. In contrast Woods had a shocker - and Love joins 2002 captain Curtis Strange in putting the 14-major winner out last and seeing his game become totally irrelevant in the destiny of the cup.
The only previous side to win from four down entering the singles was Ben Crenshaw's in Brookline, Boston in 1999 - a match that ended so controversially with a premature invasion of the 17th green.
Olazabal was on the receiving end of that, standing there as he waited for calm to be restored and then missing the putt which meant the Americans could not lose.
That was just another dimension to how sweet this day must have felt.