Isaac Dunmall thought he had blown his shot at Stawell Gift glory when he trailed home last in the final two years ago.
As it turned out, he got a second go on Monday and this time he grabbed it with both hands.
The 22-year-old Queenslander crashed to the turf after lunging desperately through the finishing gates, having just held off the challenge from fast-finishing Tjimarri Sanderson-Milera.
Running off a handicap of 6.75m, Dunmall clocked a winning time of 12.17 seconds, two hundredths of a second clear of Sanderson-Milera, with teenaged sprint star Jack Hale claiming third spot.
“I didn’t know the meaning of speechless until now – this is unbelievable,” said Dunmall.
“I got a good start and I kicked on really well.
“I saw Tjimarri coming towards me at the end of the last 20 and I was just like `hold on, hold on’.
“I wasn’t sure I’d won because I knew he was coming close.
“I honestly can’t put my feelings into words right now.
“I’ve wanted to win this race for so long, it means so much to me.”
It was in sharp contrast to the 2014 final at Central Park, when Dunmall was never a factor in a race won by another Queenslander, Luke Versace.
“I thought I’d blown my chance in that race,” said Dunmall.
“I thought `I’m gone, there’s no way known I’m going to win a Stawell Gift now’.
“Now to come back and actually do it – that’s insane.
“I was coming into this race feeling a lot more confident and a lot more energetic.”
Hale clocked the fastest semi-final time of 12.22 on Monday, but was seven hundredths of a second slower in the final.
The 17-year-old set a 100m personal best of 10.31 earlier this month in Perth.
Fifteen-year-old schoolgirl Talia Martin won the women’s Gift in 13.70 ahead of Tierra Exum – the sister of NBA star Dante Exum – and Sarah Blizzard.
Both Gift winners pocketed $40,000, although Martin was docked $2000 for showing rapid improvement.
She had been eliminated in the heats of the Ararat Gift only 12 days ago, a below-par performance she put down to the recent death of her aunt.
Olympian Lauren Wells claimed one of the most impressive victories of the day in the women’s 400m.
Wells spotted the frontmarkers a 40m headstart but was still able to reel in the field on the final straight.