Mohammed Aman was outmuscled and jostled, but belied his diminutive size to produce a devastating sprint and claim a first-ever medal of any colour for Ethiopia in the world 800m by winning gold on Tuesday.
The two-lap event had sadly been shorn of the sublime talents of the injured David Rudisha, the Kenyan who broke the world record in winning the Olympic title last year.
But, in his absence, Aman, the 19-year-old world indoor champion who has twice got the better of Rudisha, stepped into the void with some style.
"I'm the first Ethiopian to win a 800m gold medal!" Aman said. "This gold medal is a big thing for me and my country.
"It was not easy, a world championships final is such a hard race. All the athletes in the race were very strong and it's a double pleasure to be first in such company."
Aman added: "I was confident because I have speed on the last 100 metres and also nervous because it is the worlds and one has to be careful and smart.
"I didn't want to be boxed in like the semi-final so I just stayed patient when Symmonds and Solomon kicked off."
The race was bunched for all but the final 200 metres, fancied American Duane Solomon bossing his way into the front as Frenchman Pierre-Ambroise Bosse almost sideswiped Aman coming out of the first corner run in lanes.
At the bell, American Nick Symmonds came racing through, Aman again muscled out of the way and then boxed in behind the leading American duo.
The field spread with 200m to go in the run-in to the home strait. Symmonds went wide around Solomon, but Aman worked to go wider and outsprinted the American to the line for victory in 1min 43.31sec.
Symmonds held on for silver in 1:43.55, with a fast-advancing Ayanleh Souleiman claiming bronze in 1:43.76, a first medal for Djibouti since Ahmed Salah won silver in the marathon in the 1991 Tokyo worlds.
"I'm happy with my performance," said Symmonds. "I had a chance for gold and I hope some day I'll win it.
"The competition without Rudisha was like a gift on a silver plate and nobody wanted to waste the chance."
Souleiman said that "tonight all of Djibouti will celebrate because there hasn't been any medal since 25 years".
"I'm still in the 1500m on Wednesday and God willing I will win."
Solomon, who finished fourth in the London Olympic final in a time that in all previous finals would have seen him win a medal, faded to sixth behind Poland's Marcin Lewandowski and fifth-place Briton Andrew Osagie.