Christophe Lemaitre lunged for the line to edge out French compatriot Jimmy Vicaut and retain his European 100m title in Helsinki on Thursday.
The 22-year-old followed up his 2010 Barcelona win in a time of 10.09 seconds, with Vicaut claiming silver in 10.12. Norway’s Saidy Ndure (10.17) came in third.
Tension was high at the start after two false starts. Sent off at the third attempt, Lemaitre made up ground to overhaul Vicaut and snatch victory with only five of the eight runners finishing.
Visibly moved when the photo-finish verdict was announced Lemaitre sank to the ground, banging his fists on the grass before draping a French tricolor round his shoulders.
The performance cemented Lemaitre’s standing as Europe’s top sprinter, but he is going to have to turn on the power even more to make an impression against Usain Bolt and company at the Games should he elect to take up the 100m gauntlet.
When the event eventually did get underway Sakalauskas, who had picked up an injury in his semi-final, pulled up while Latvia’s Ronalds Arajs also raised the white flag midway down the straight.
Earlier, Bulgarian Ivet Lalova produced a scintillating finish to claim the women’s 100m crown.
The 28-year-old, who was seventh in last summer’s Worlds in South Korea, was being led by Norwegian Ezinne Okparaebo and Ukraine’s Olesya Povh, but kicked in the final 15m to win in 11.28.
Arms flailing, Lalova’s dip for the line in crisp, wet conditions edged out Povh for silver (11.32), the Ukrainian winning a photo-finish with late-runner Lina Grincikaite of Lithuania, with Okparaebo pushed into fourth.
Defending champion Verena Sailer of Germany could only manage sixth (11.42).
Russian Olga Golovkina won the 5,000m, timing a final-strait assault to perfection to clock 15:11.70 and finish ahead of Ukraine’s Lyudmyla Kovalenko and Portugal’s Sara Moreira.
France’s Eloyse Lesueur won the women’s long jump, Spain’s Ruth Betia took high jump gold, German Pascal Behrenbruch won the decathlon with 8,558 points from Oleksiy Kasyanov of Ukraine, while javelin gold went to Czech Vitezslav Vesely.